Quick Hit: Settle in for the long haul on this older film that highlights why Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean were so respected for their craft.
I had never seen or heard of Giant going in (eventually I’ll make it a goal to watch all Oscar-winners – but that is quite lofty and I’ll miss so many other good films – the Academy is rather fallible – how else would I have seen Straight Outta Compton? and the Academy couldn't even nominate it), and I still can’t decide if it’s a good thing. I had seen each actor/actress in different things, but I think this is a great film for those that want to learn more about some of the older generation of acting royalty.
Giant tells the story of first, a man and a woman that fall in love and go back to the man’s home in Texas. There, a ranch hand strikes it rich, and there is a long, slow movement towards him, along with the development of characters to become better people in the end. That’s about as cursory of an explanation as you can give for a movie that is 3 hours and 21 minutes long.
Allow me to get a little more in depth, for those Dear Readers that want to know more. The movie begins with Bick Benedict Jr. (Rock Hudson) trying to purchase a horse. After staying over, there is a woman, Leslie (Elizabeth Taylor), that it is just too much woman, and they are married. After returning to Texas, Leslie quickly proves that she is the woman that Bick needs in his life, changing some of the barbaric ways that his Mexican workers are treated. This is assisted when Bick’s sister dies. Bick’s sister, always fond of ranch hand Jett Rink (played with the cool suaveness we associate with James Dean), leaves him some land, where he eventually strikes oil. Bick and Jett had never gotten along, and it is obvious in the scenes they share that Jett is quite taken with Leslie.
Here the movie changes from a long movie that has touched on racism, to being a very tiny closing sequence that is ALL about racism. And frankly, it’s pretty effective. The amount of time we have spent with the characters, and the terrific performances from our leads have made us care about them deeply. Therefore, when we see Bick finally stand up for what is right in the diner, in what may be the most drawn-out fist fight in history (well, that and They Live! (warning, link contains explicit language), we get thrilled with every single punch.
It’s truly regrettable that none of these three stars is still with us. Liz Taylor lived the longest (only until age seventy-nine) while Rock Hudson passed at 59 (AIDS) and James Dean tragically died at 24. We lose so many people prematurely, but they can always live on through what we have left of them: in this case, a wonderful film.
One final thing to note before we close. This is the second older movie that we have reviewed. It's easy to see why some of these movies have survived, while others are relegated to dusty video store shelves and trashcans. The amount of feminism that is showing through in these is amazing. Leslie could easily have just given in to her husband's demands, and become a country Texan wife that never objected to anything that he said. Instead, she stands up for herself. She makes her own decisions and does what she thinks is right, despite what Bick wants. It's great to watch this couple adapt, and reminds me of another set of movies that I recently watched: Richard Linklater's Before trilogy.
I’m giving Giant a “B”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"