It’s been 20 years next month since Titanic graced our screens, it’s been twenty years since I, who worked in a cinema had to sit through that film over forty times. I learned it by heart, learned the score by heart and noticed some glaring errors. The right-handed Billy Zane is suddenly left-handed in several scenes, including when he shoots at Jack and Rose. No wonder he’s a crap shot!
I even went to the exhibition in Greenwich, saw the objects salvaged from the ocean floor and touched a real piece of the ship. Part of the hull which was recovered from the seabed and feeling an actual part of Titanic was amazing.
Now Titanic, directed by James Cameron is a masterpiece of filmmaking with the sets, exquisite costumes, and a plot ripped from A Night to Remember.
I’ve watched every incarnation of Titanic, read most books, including the German one, I can watch any film about it and point out where they went wrong with the layout, (don’t get me started on the version starring Catherine Zeta Jones and Tim Curry).
I sat through Raise the Titanic and the animated version with the rapping dog and the other two animated films. Which I’m not going to explain further, to save you from ever finding out about them.
Most versions, have something about them, and most are accurate to their time period, and what people knew. The Titanic sinking intact was believed to be the case until 1985 when Robert Ballad discovered it.
The real history of the people has been told and told again, from the Straus family refusing to leave each other’s side to Bruce Ismay getting in a lifeboat, to the wireless operator refusing to go until the very end and managing by some fluke to survive.
Real people and real history, but by creating the story of the doomed romance between Jack and Rose, it did free James Cameron to do what he wanted and to pay respect to the real people in a way which wouldn’t insult their families. Because who out there wishes to see a character assignation, on the big screen.
Well apart from William Murdoch, the First Officer of Titanic who died a hero, and didn’t commit suicide, and then an apology had to be offered to his family and hometown where he is hailed as a hero.
There are so many fantastic characters in this film from real life, Thomas Andrews, the architect of the ship played by the always fabulous Victor Garber, to the fictional Caledon Hockley, played by Billy Zane.
This film isn’t subtle though which I’ll get too later since I have one issue with this film, one character who ruins it for me.
I have nothing against Kate Winslet, there are only a few actresses in the world who could pull off overdyed red hair in a film set in 1912.
However, Rose DeWitt-Bukater is a narcissistic spoiled brat, who treats the people in her life like crap, and gets rewarded for it.
From the moment you meet young Rose from her dismissal at the most stunning ocean liner in the entire world, because her fiance booked First Class staterooms on board, she doesn’t see what the big deal is.
She’s about to set sail on the Titanic, which she didn’t pay for and is bitching about it. Even the dialogue she uses.
Rose: I don’t see what all of the fuss is about. It doesn’t look any bigger than the Mauritania.
Then there’s this little gem.
Old Rose: [to Brock, Lizzy, and Brock’s staff] I saw my whole life as if I’d already lived it. An endless parade of parties and cotillions, yachts and polo matches. Always the same narrow people, the same mindless chatter. I felt like I was standing at a great precipice, with no one to pull me back, no one who cared… or even noticed…
Oh, my heart bleeds for you Rose, for having this life of luxury in 1912, and not having to work like Trudy. Trudy, your maid, said a few words and is last seen on the deck, about to die from impact or hypothermia. Remember her? Having to work for a living, and not living to 101 next month. But Rose, poor Rose hates her life, and all its trappings.
Old Rose: It was the ship of dreams to everyone else. To me it was a slave ship, taking me back to America in chains. Outwardly, I was everything a well brought up girl should be. Inside, I was screaming.
We get it, you privileged but poor, Cal is a git but rich, it’s a marriage of convenience.
I still hate you, but let’s talk a little about Cal
Now Cal is an asshole, but it’s 1912, the film was done in 1997 and set in 1912, I’m not expecting Cal to go around discussing “The Emancipation of Women”. This film needed a villain, (aside from the Iceberg and that’s just nature doing its thing).
So it’s the card-carrying villain Cal, who treats Rose like crap, orders her food like a child, slaps her around the face, sets Jack up to be framed for the theft of The Heart of the Ocean, and shoots at them both. Then sent his Battle Butler Lovejoy after them because he can’t be bothered to finish the job. Tried to blackmail William Murdoch, but saves a little girl from certain death and later kills himself.
Cal is a cartoon character, but he’s so used to being in control since it’s 1912, he’s having a villainous breakdown, while the Titanic is sinking. Then losing the necklace, money and coat, and then by his own devious means survives the sinking.
I’m not giving Cal a pass for anything. He really is an asshole. Cal sees Rose as a possession more than anything, and is more pissed that Jack possibly puts his hands on “My fiancée”. He’s marrying Rose for status and basks in his own privilege.
Yet seems to be aware of Rose’s lack of feelings for him, knows she’s melancholy, doesn’t want them to deny each other, and wants her to open her heart for him and just give him a chance.
He is pissed at her actions, but then Rose parties with the guy Cal thought was trying to rape Rose the night before, and you wonder why he’s pissed! Cal tries to do what he can and gives her the Heart of the Ocean, which she then throws it back in his face, by screwing the commoner in Steerage and posing for him.
So Cal is a dick, but Rose isn’t exactly a saint is she?
Let’s just consider how Jack and Rose met. Rose depressed about her situation decides to throw herself off the back end of the ship, and after Rose bitching at Jack for a while changes her mind.
All well and good, then Rose acted insulted when Cal tried to offer Jack $20, even though today that’s worth about $500, and instead Jack gets invited to dinner. If I were Jack, I would have just taken the money since he’s a starving artist and all.
The next day Rose orders, Jack, to leave after he asked her a simple question if she loves Cal. Rose reacts to this question as if Jack had just picked up one of the Pomeranians being walked on the deck and snapped its neck in front of her, and calls him “rude and uncouth”.
Jack just asked a simple question, which should have required a simple answer.
But they all go to dinner thanks to Molly Brown who lends Jack a suit, but Rose then proceeds to insult all the dinner guests, including the five months pregnant Madeline Astor for her “delicate condition”.
Now the real-life Mrs Astor may have married for money, (or because she loved her husband and the age gap was meaningless) which is possible but so is Rose, so she’s a massive hypocrite. Rose openly flirts with Jack in front of her future husband, disappears unchaperoned to a party in the Third Class.
For some reason by going up on pointe to a bunch of hard Irishmen to the tunes of Gaelic Storm, and their impressed because Rose, telling the story suggest they are.
Have to appreciate that Jack, ah Jack, sweet romantic Jack calls out Rose’s attitude, but then praises her for being her. Right, just keep enabling her behaviour then, by talking about how Rose needs to save herself, which give her the impetus to pose like one of his French girls.
It really comes out of nowhere, that a sexual undertone is running through this film. From Cal’s dialogue, he seems to want Rose to sleep with him before marriage because he just does.
Which to me gives credence that she sought Jack to claim the first night. So that’s one thing she would have over Cal in the future before she decides not to marry him that is.
For an Edwardian woman, Rose really knows how to take control of the situation, doesn’t she? Even with her fancy education, so did staring at a sketch of a one-legged prostitute invoke her sexual awakening? However, full respect to Kate Winslet for not having a body double for that scene.
The thing is Rose is a modern woman, strong, intelligent, can hold her own in a conversation and knows what she wants and what she doesn’t want, but is rude, dismissive and entitled. It’s a strange combination of a character who acts like a passive victim, then behaves like a villain.
It’s stated through Old Rose’s dialogue that “Cal married and inherited his millions”, suggesting that Cal had to marry and that person was Rose due to her status, but the film never seems to explore if he’s happy with the arrangement?
He seems to show any affection by spending his money, but Rose never objects to the luxurious staterooms, the Heart of the Ocean or her nice things all funded by him.
So what does she want? Freedom or to be kept, because she whines about the latter unless it’s on her terms. She doesn’t even discuss with Jack about leaving together, she just tells him they’re going to be together. Rose has no experience of the real world, and running away with a penniless artist, even Jack knew she was crazy for thinking that.
Once again Jack is the voice of reason, with some dialogue which makes him come across as a teenager in a sitcom, being led into ruin by Rose Dewitt Bukater.
Skipping ahead, Jack framed, Cal goes mental, Titanic is sinking, shit gets real, and the full extent of Rose evilness comes into play. The moment Rose jumped off the lifeboat back onto the ship, robbing a place from a potential survivor, who would have just sat there and waited for the Carpathia to rescue them.
So already one person is destined to die because Rose had to jump off, and Ruth, who had previously lost her husband and fortune, will now spend the rest of her life thinking her only daughter is dead. Rose’s mother who was living in dire straits, watched her only child die on the Titanic, and Rose let her think that for the rest of her life.
Rose stood on the Carpathia, knowing her last words to Ruth were “Goodbye mother”, and let Ruth grieve for her lost child, and never reconciled with her. Ruth was no saint, but she didn’t deserve that.
Ok, Cal lives, Jack dies, and we all know that both of them could have fit on that door. Rose lives the rest of her life, but since Rose really is an unreliable narrator and mentions thing she would have no way of knowing, I always felt like she deliberately set Cal up to be a villain to detract from her odious behaviour, when Rose is just as bad. How would Rose know that Cal saved a little girl, tried to bribe Murdoch, even set Jack up? She wasn’t even there when any of that happened?
In an alternative universe, Cal really was a sweet guy whose life was wrecked by Rose, the same way Rose ruined Jack’s. Then there’s Cal’s last scene, in the theatrical cut at least, desperately looking for Rose, yet never seeing her.
But let’s go back to the very beginning
The motivation for all of this was that Brock Lovett was searching the wreck for The Heart of the Ocean. Brock had to convince investors to fund the expedition, all the scientist and salvaging rights this entails. Which would have made him rich, if he had found the diamond, instead of a sketch of a naked redhead.
Now let’s talk about The Heart of the Ocean, it was a gift for an Engagement Gala which never took place because Rose made the decision not to marry Cal. It wound up with Jack courtesy of Cal, then back with Cal and then ended with Rose, courtesy of Cal giving Rose his coat.
So between 1912, the moment Rose put her hand in her pocket and found it to 1997. Rose hung on to the diamond for almost 83 years, give or take a few days. Yet did nothing with it, including giving it back to its rightful owner. If Rose had a conscience, she could have done that, sent it anonymously back to Cal since as I’ve said it was for an Engagement which never took place, hence was never truly hers.
But instead, she goes full-on bitch mode and throws it into the sea. Let’s go to the deleted scenes to explore more why she did it.
This speech I copied from the blu ray, and it was also on the DVD. In fact, scenes they cut have been on various formats and documentaries for years, none of them are new or undiscovered. I’ve seen this more than once, so let me share the misery.
Old Rose: The hardest part of being so poor is being so rich, but every time I thought about selling it, I thought of Cal, and somehow I made it without his help
Brock: Look, Rose, I don’t know what to say to a woman who tries to jump off the Titanic when it’s not sinking and jumps back when it is. But think about logic for a second.
Old Rose: Oh I’ve thought about this for years, and I’ve come all the way here to put it back where it belongs.
Brock: Wait, just let me hold it in my hand, please. Just this once
Brock touches it, in shock and awe.
Old Rose: You look for treasure in the wrong place Mr Lovett, only life is priceless, and making each day count
Brock still holding it, but Rose is giving him this stern look like she’s cast a spell over him to do her bidding. Brock lets it go, and Rose throws it behind her and into the ocean, the rest of the crew freak out.
Rose is told “That really sucks lady”, instead of calling her a total bitch while Brook is coming out of his trance, laughs like a demented witch on crack and asks Lizzy to dance.
Back where it belongs?
What the hell is Rose talking about? She should have no sentimental attachment to that damn thing. Rose wore it twice, she should have given it back to Cal, since she desired her freedom so much.
Perhaps if Rose had done the decent thing Cal wouldn’t have killed himself post Stock Market Crash and would have lived a long and happy life, eventually coming to terms with Rose’s assumed death.
The fact that thousands of tons of his family’s steel were in the ship, which sank on its maiden voyage claiming over a thousand lives, while he managed to live. Bet he couldn’t hold his head up for a while after that, just like Bruce Ismay.
Whatever version you have, Rose is still a total bitch, and I for one think she did have help. I think she had financial assistance, and that came from Cal.
Cal was the type who threw money around like it was nothing, he tried to bribe Murdoch, he acted like money could do anything he desired. I always assumed in the other coat pocket were wads of damp notes just waiting to be dried out and spent.
Was I the only one who wondered how Rose survived with no identification, or skills to make a living? Other real passengers on the ship were deported back to their countries of origin, but she thrived. Became an actress, learned to fly, rode like a cowboy, is 100 years old and making pottery, with her granddaughter Lizzy taking care of her.
Poor Lizzy who spends her days helping an old grandmother when she could be living her own life, but she helps her granny out of the goodness of her heart. When granny has a necklace worth more than the Hope Diamond in her possession.
That money could have meant Rose could have an independent elderly life. Lizzy may or may not have had dreams of her own, and possibly had to sacrifice them to care for her grandmother.
Is her altruism rewarded by becoming the heir to a diamond? Or does Rose invest in struggling artists, and help them make their dreams come true through real altruistic means, or build hospitals, and support the poor?
No, because Rose, the selfish bint she is, decides to throw it overboard.
The best example of Rose was the very end when James Cameron asked Gloria Stewart to hold her breath when filming so the audience could decide if Rose passed away or not.
I say she passed away, after seeing the pan of her life post-Jack and all her adventures, all those photographs which she takes everywhere are of her, and only one of her husband and young family, and it’s blink, and you miss it.
Rose was married to this guy for decades, but who cares about seeing more of Rose’s life and family and the at least two children she gave birth too?
Then Rose passes away, after living a full and happy life, and returns back to Titanic, where she instead reunites with Jack. Because decades of love and marriage don’t matter in comparison to the guy she hooked up with for a few days in 1912.
Real classy Rose, real class. But I do love how beautiful this scene is, it’s just perfect
Overall Titanic has a lot to offer even after twenty years, every actor is doing a fantastic job. I give full respect to Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Billy Zane for fully committing to their roles and sometimes terrible dialogue.
The costumes are stunning, the sets fantastic, the score by the late James Horner is superb, and that ending is perfection.
When I watch Titanic, watching it set sail, to the moment the iceberg dashes across its starboard side, to the moment it splits and sinks beneath the ocean. That’s why I love this film, because Titanic happened, real people lost their lives, and laws were changed because of it.
The saga of Jack and Rose is nothing in comparison to the real story of Titanic.