Rebel Without a Cause
A classic Hollywood fable of misunderstood youth that practically invented the concept of the teenager, this finds loner Jim Stark (Dean) hooking up with fellow anarchic-hormone sufferers Judy (Wood) and Plato (Mineo) to form a pseudo-family, thus (ironically) rebelling against the freedom afforded them by authority figures. Dean's death in a car-crash before Rebel even hit the screens ensured that the film would be profitable, but it's a critical success too. Veteran director Nick Ray (They Live By Night, In a Lonely Place) ensured that Dean's sub-Brando histrionics were subsumed to the greater good of the film, and while Dean's achingly raw portrayal of misunderstood youth may look naive today, it still packs a considerable punch. Never less than compelling as the Golden Boy with a dubious past and no visible future, his characterisation is integral to a film that was one of the first (along with Blackboard Jungle) to successfully reveal the rotten underbelly of America's post-WWII myth of suburban idyll. The plot is a straightforward coming-of-age tale, but young audiences of the time thrilled to the switchblade knife-fights, illicit boozing and lethal car races. While the film belongs to Dean, he gets excellent support from Wood, Mineo and the criminally underrated Jim Backus.
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