XL Popcorn – Giant

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 570/1007
Title: Giant
Director: George Stevens
Year: 1956
Country: USA

For the first time in ages a film will not be sharing a blog entry. I would say that since this is a 200 minute long epic it would make sense, but longer films like Shoah and La Roue had to share with other films so this isn’t entirely accurate. Then again, it’s unlikely that I will see another film this week so… you know how it is.

Anyway, as epics go I don’t think I have ever watched one with a more attractive leading cast (Gone With The Wind comes ever so close). With Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean all credited as leads it’s just a feast for the eyes to watch them work.

Actually, now that I think on it, there is no way that James Dean is a lead actor in this film. Sure his character is very important, but his screentime is minimal compared to Rock Hudson. I guess that is the power of posthumous consideration.

Taking the place over 25 years Giant tells the story of a powerful Texan family that has to change with the times as oil starts to become uncovered in their area. This discovery of oil and the need to move with the times forms the central idea with concepts like sexism and racism being confronted pretty much head on numerous times in the film.

Rock Hudson plays Bick Benedict, one of a long line of ranchers who finds it hard to change with the times. He is very much of the Texan society that treats women as being empty headed and Mexicans as being very far beneath him. Enter Elizabeth Taylor as the Maryland-born Leslie whose intelligence, determination and empathy pretty much shoves him into the 20th century.

It’s interesting to watch their lives as Leslie doesn’t really change much over the course of 25 years, but Bick is forced to evolve through circumstance. He becomes more open to a woman’s opinion because of his constant interactions with Leslie (and the fact that she is not his equal, but probably more intelligent). He is forced to become more tolerant of the Mexicans when his son marries one and fathers the next heir to the Benedict line. It’s only really in the film’s climactic scene in the diner where we see just how different this man has become and it is incredibly heart-warming.

Watching this in the present day I think I am more shocked by the racism and sexism on display than the standard 1956 watcher of Giant. The scene where Leslie is being told she cannot join in the talk of politics because it is man’s talk (despite the fact that, as she points out, being a Maryland native means you are born next door to politics) is so cringey to watch.

At 3 and a quarter hours is this film a bit overly long in places? Yes it is, but it needs to be somewhat epic in length in order to do justice to the changes that happened to these Texans over the 25 years. An interesting watch, which leaves me with two James Dean films left to see.

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