18 April, 2010
See worthy, but not a classic
Winner Best European Actress (Kate Winslet), People's Choice Awards and nominated for Outstanding European Achievement in World Cinema (Kate Winslet), European Film Awards 1998
Well I remember my intitial reaction to James Cameron's sweep-all-before-it 11 Oscar winner in 1998 - my film critic career was still in its infancy then and, like seemingly most of the civilized world (it was the most succesful film ever until Cameron's Avatar (2009)) overtook it recently, though thankfully not with Academy Awards), I was blown away by the scale, sweep and power of a film that, as far as I knew, was an accurate account of the sinking of HMS Titanic, a story of human folly and arrogance, and the thousands of souls who paid the ultimate price.
Ahem. Well, it must now be said that Cameron's film has really not aged that well - there's no doubting the efforts of the ensemble cast (with Kathy Bates, David Warner, Billy Zane (probably the best thing in the film, as the pantomime-villainesque would-be husband Cal Hockley) and many others following the lead of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, both whom enjoyed break-out successes as star-crossed lovers Rose and Jack), and the actual sinking of the ship (sorry if that's a spoiler) is achieved in a dramatic and genuinely moving fashion.
No, it's the set-up and script that you have to have problems with on subsequent viewings. 2,200 people (including a namesake of mine) were aboard the ill-fated liner - how difficult would it have been for Cameron to have found a truly original, adult tale from such a selection? And just how believable are DiCaprio as a supposedley 'experienced' youth of the streets and Winslet as a poor little rich girl? Answer? Not very, so sorry.
And the script? Oh dear. Cameron makes the ill-inspired move of trying to be ironic at every turn, and we all know how dangerous a game that is for Americans to play, don't we?
Trudy Bolt: What's the artist's name?
Rose: Something Picasso.
Cal Hockley: [scoffs] Something Picasso? He won't amount to a thing.
Now, don't get me wrong - the ending is impressive, and Titanic will doubtless endure as a testament to spectacle, but little else, in much the same way that William Wyler's overrated Ben Hur (1959) (which won the same number of Oscars) already has.
But People's Choice Award for Best European Actress? I don't think so. As with Godzilla (1998), it just shows what can happen when you give people the vote.
Awards: Click here for details.