I should stress this is not a traditional film review. Yes, I watched the re-release of James Cameron’s 1997 Oscar winning behemoth with 3D glasses since that is the whole point of said re-release. But Titanic in 3D is still the Titanic you know. It is still filled with the dialogue about which everyone likes to whine (oh, woe is you). It is still filled with the pointedly unsubtle class differences and the secondary characters who vanish into the mist only to reappear when they need to be killed off and, yes, Billy Zane is still there acting like a garish……wait for it……Easter ham. But it also still has James Cameron’s unrivaled ability to mix full-throttle storytelling with technology and emotion and his grateful desire to return movies to a time when they still reveled in their movie-ness. And yes, it still has, above all else, a love story equal parts corn and earnestness that moves me like few other things in cinema. All this time later and Rose and Jack’s hearts still go on. (Oh, snap!)
Did Titanic need to be updated for 3D? I have no idea. Honestly. I am likely in the 5% of people least qualified to answer that question. What I can tell you is that as I watched the movie unfold before me I was essentially looking past the 3D. It’s like how I don’t own a blu ray player or surround sound. None of that interests me. The film itself interests me. I was seeing Titanic on the big screen again and that was all that mattered.
What I can also tell you is that I am also a big believer in symmetry. My belief in symmetry is an offshoot of my belief in all things pertaining to fate and destiny and karma and so on and so forth. An example: when Kate Winslet won her Best Supporting Actress at the 2009 Golden Globes for The Reader the very next award winner – just a couple minutes later – was Bruce Springsteen for Best Song for The Wrestler. My Favorite Actress segueing to my idol. Symmetry.
Another example: when I was on my pilgrimage to North Carolina to see the sites where they shot Last of the Mohicans, my favorite movie, I stopped at a diner in Staunton, Virginia and while I was eating my turkey sandwich slathered in mashed potatoes and gravy and reading an interview with, ahem, Kate Winslet in USA Today the guy sitting at the booth next to mine asked the waitress – and I swear I’m not making this up – for a piece of lemon pie. She said all right. He asked for whipped cream. She said all right. He clarified that he wanted “real whipped cream, not whipped cream out of a can.”
And as far as I was concerned, this was close enough to Frankie Dunn telling Maggie Fitzgerald in Million Dollar Baby, my second favorite movie, that he wanted “real whipped cream” with his own lemon pie and “none of that canned filling crap” that I yearned to burst out of my booth, hug the guy and do a little dance. I didn’t go looking for symmetry on that trip but, by God, there it was.
As I watched Titanic in a theater for the first time in 15 years yesterday two things truly struck me – one that has struck me before and one that hasn’t and they both have to do with symmetry.
You remember the scene where Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) takes Rose (Winslet) below deck for “a real party.” Rose is sitting off to the side, clapping along and drinking a beer (because, of course, first class girls can drink). Jack is dancing with a kindly, smily little girl. The song ends. Now Jack wants to dance with Rose and so he calls Rose over and that forces the kindly, smily little girl to the side. She looks bummed. So Jack says: “You’re still my best girl, Cora.”
Cora! What was the name of the primary female character in the aforementioned Last of the Mohicans, my favorite movie? Cora, that’s what!!! Cora Munro!!! This never really dawned on me the first or fifth time I saw it but it did some years after. I felt like that was me talking to Cora Munro. It’s like I wanted to say to Madeleine Stowe “You’re still my best girl, Cora” even though, of course, she really wasn’t.
And neither was Cora’s sister Alice, a character I have probably written more about than even the most scholarly film scholars in recorded history. Alice hurling herself off the cliff at the end of Last of the Mohicans in defiance of Magua is the moment that made me truly fall in love with movies and, in turn, turn me into the over-romantic nutcase writing this very post.
I have written before that the first time in theater during the moment when Rose leaps from the lifeboat back onto the Titanic is the closest I have ever come to truly seeing God. Now, believe me, I know how that sounds. People have scoffed and rolled their eyes and probably said things behind my back in regards to that proclamation, and that’s fine. I bear no ill will. But I know what happened. I know what I felt. Case.Closed. What never occurred to me – honestly – was the symmetry of the situation. Alice jumping to her death and Rose jumping back to life. Because that’s exactly what she’s doing. Stay on that lifeboat and she no doubt falls back in with dastardly Cal and her manipulative mother but no. She jumps back onto the Titanic and, thus, re-claims her life even as she taunts death. How did I never realize this? I don’t know. But I did yesterday and I was so moved and rattled at once I almost had to leave the theater. (But I didn’t. I even had to go to the bathroom and despite having seen the movie numerous times and knowing precisely the best times to go to the bathroom, I still didn’t.)
Hey, don’t get me wrong. Cora is still a badass. She is more badass than Evelyn Salt, Ellen Ripley and Mallory Kane put together with a little of Olivia de Havilland’s Maid Marian served on the side. Alice Munro? Alice made the single ballsiest decision I’ve seen in a movie.
But Rose Dewitt Bukater? It’s fifteen years burning down the road, sure, but Rose still is and always will be my fucking hero.