Movie Review: Rebel Without a Cause


“YOU’RE TEARING ME APART!” I came home last night after another school day and sat down to watch this and eat my reheated dinner. Nothing says “bon appetit” like juvenile delinquency.

Over the course of a little more than a day, James Dean tries to fit in at school and defend his pride while making (and losing) some friends and putting up with his overbearing parents.

For me, it was a nice surprise to see Jim Backus in a non-comedic role. I’ve only known him in Gilligan’s Island and Mr. Magoo. To see him in something so emotionally charged was a nice change.

Depending on who you talk to, the “tearing me apart” line is attributed to either James Dean or Tommy Wiseau. More likely than not, members from my generation will see The Room first before seeing Rebel Without a Cause. I fall into that category. So when it came time for the quote, I was first amazed that it came so early in the film (11 or so minutes from the beginning). I had to rewind and finish the quote with “Lisa!”, hand gestures and all. Of course, I was the only one in the room but I still had fun. What’s less likely, at least in my opinion, is having someone who’s seen The Room that’s my age and then watch this movie in order to fully get the reference.

After watching the movie, I had trouble figuring out who the titular rebel was and the lack of cause. Each character was a rebel in their own way and had a cause for doing so. It turns out that the title was borrowed from a book and the movie does not reference said book. You would think that a movie’s title would have some relevance with the content but I did not think so.

For a high schooler, I thought James Dean was a bit too old for the part, but you take what you can get. His performance was great, don’t get me wrong. I just don’t know if they could get anyone else high school age that could carry that kind of acting required.

All in all, a nice flick with great performances.


1001 MYMSBYD selection

AFI Top 100 (1997): #59

400 Nominations for AFI Top 100 for both years

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