Liz Tells Frank Stuff She Forgot Happened In “Titanic”

Dear Frank,

Normally, I write these missives to tell you about stuff you have a real need to know about; this week, though, we’re going to try something different. Because you are a human being who was alive in the year 1997, I’m fairly confident that you’ve seen the movie Titanic — but the thing about a meticulously made three-hour epic is that time fades away certain details, especially if you weren’t one of those Titanic-holic teenyboppers who rewatched it obsessively on VHS.

I wasn’t one of them, myself — I’ve probably seen the movie, start to finish, four times total, including last night’s viewing. But Frank, I was SHOCKED by how little I remembered. Perhaps these are things you’d also forgotten about? We’ll find out!

First huge thing I’d forgotten? Frank, it takes 24 minutes for anyone to actually set foot on board the Titanic. For perspective’s sake — that means there’s an entire Two Broke Girls-worth of Bill Paxton and his crew of submarine duders rummaging around the Titanic wreckage and not believing the old lady who says that she’s Rose, the naked hottie from the drawing they just pulled out of a submerged safe.

Oh, and the REASON these guys are going all out in their Titanic investigation? Frank, this entire fucking movie is a jewel hunt! They just want to find the necklace that Rose is wearing in the drawing (and that — SPOILERS — she throws back into the ocean at the end, which is an enjoyably dick move)! Your James Cameron analogy for the day — Titanic:The Heart of the Ocean::Avatar:Unobtanium. I’ll let you decide which MacGuffin is best incorporated into the story.

Okay, now we’re finally getting into the action, Jack’s about to win his ticket on the Titanic, and Frank, LEONARDO DICAPRIO IS SMOKING! I am shocked! Horrified! Won’t anyone think of the children? Rob Reiner, where were you in 1997?

Frank, I hadn’t forgotten that distinctions of class were an element of Titanic — but I had forgotten how MUCH of Titanic is basically about class warfare. Like, basically ALL of it. The shot where Kate Winslet and her fellow fancy people are led up the gangplank while, in the foreground, steerage has to submit to health inspections and lice checks is pretty head-thumpingly unsubtle incredible. As is Leo’s protest as he shoves his way onto the ship at the last second, “We don’t have any lice! We’re Americans!”

Also, yikes, there’s a big ol’ hindsight joke, which is only ever funny in Back to the Future. Rose bought some paintings! Billy Zane doesn’t like them! “Something Picasso — he won’t amount to a thing.” (Fun fact, Frank: I double-checked Wikipedia to make sure it was plausible for Rose to have purchased work by Picasso in the year 1912 — it is — and apparently Picasso was accused of stealing the Mona Lisa one time? Seriously. Kids today.)

OH HEY, THAT’S RIGHT, KATHY BATES IS IN THIS MOVIE, FRANK! That’s rad. I love Kathy Bates. And she’s perfect casting as the Unsinkable Molly Brown. AND HEY, VICTOR GARBER, NICE TO SEE YOU TOO! You are also the best.

An entire character I’d totally forgotten — Jack’s super-Italian buddy, who my notes refer to simply as “Mamma Mia!” I mean, he’s suuuuuuuuuuper Italian, Frank. Which is I guess why he’s cool with his friend ditching him to hang out with a rich girl? I don’t really know how this works.

WAIT, NOW ROSE IS SMOKING?!? Holy crap, has anyone studied the effects of Titanic on teenage smoking from 1997 on? Because they should. They really really should. Also, Rose just made a joke about penis size with a hat-tip to Freud. Classy dame.

SMOKING IS BAD FOR YOU, KIDS.

So, yeah, I do remember the bit where Jack and Rose meet because she nearly throws herself off the back of the boat, and he talks her out of doing it. But I had forgotten that they get discovered by some sort of boat cop and it looks like Jack’s been trying to rape Rose! What a hilarious misunderstanding that is.

Something I just remembered getting mentioned from the beginning — Rose is only 17! Yikes! I love Kate Winslet forever and ever, but she comes off as much more mature. Like, 19 or so. You know.

So much cute stuff in this movie! Like, Jack teaching Rose how to spit (which totally pays off later! that’s nice) and then Kathy Bates lends Jack a tuxedo to wear to dinner and he looks faaaaaaaaaaaaab in it. Circa 1997, I was hopelessly devoted to Agent Fox Mulder, but hey, there’s nothing wrong with looking.

Don’t worry, Frank, I could NEVER forget about the adorable lower-decks party with all the dancing and punching and standing on tippy-toes. I did, however, forget how good Billy Zane’s wig is. It’s a really good wig.

So natural!

Wait, there’s church! Church on a boat! That seems so weird to me. And then there’s the scene where Jack tells Rose that he needs to know she’s going to be okay and she’s all like no I’m totally fine you gotta leave me alone but then later she sees a little girl in first class put her napkin in her lap. Frank, that little girl putting her napkin on her lap? That is what convinces Rose to give up her entire life and make out with Leo at the front of the boat.

Of course I didn't forget about this part. Please.

Time for sexytimes! Naked sketching and then doing it in a car and then cutting back to the present for the first time in like an hour. Nothing like watching an old lady tell her granddaughter and a bunch of strangers the story of “the most erotic moment of my life — up until then, at least.” Such a weird scene.

What’s strange in rewatching this is I always assumed that in the car sex scene, Rose was losing her virginity, but in the aftermath Jack’s the one who’s “trembling” and Rose seems pretty chill about it. When you consider the fact that Billy Zane earlier said something to Rose along the lines of “I was hoping you would come to me last night,” it kind of sounds like one person was doing it for the first time and one person wasn’t, and it was maybe the opposite of what I thought as a lass.

Wow, there’s so much swearing in this movie — shits and fucks and goddamns — and we haven’t even gotten to the part where hundreds of people die. How on earth did this movie get a PG-13, Frank? WHAT DID JAMES CAMERON HAVE ON THE MPAA? WHAT DID HE DO?

Okay, now the boat’s hit an iceberg and is about to sink. Whoops! Everyone’s starting to evacuate, and wow, the string quartet has so much more dialogue than I remembered! Like, they get a ton of screen time! Which isn’t shocking, I suppose, because that part of the story is awfully compelling, but I’m just saying, there’s maybe 10 minutes of this three hour movie devoted to four guys with instruments whose names we never learn.

Oh, no, VASQUEZ JUST SHOWED UP. Nooooooooooooooooooo Vasquezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz! So sad for the following reasons:

1) Aw, nice Irish lady and her two kids, DOOMED TO A WATERY GRAVE.
2) Vasquez, why u no get more work?

Oh, that's right, the reason she doesn't act much anymore is that she's opened a bra shop in Los Angeles for ladies with very large breasts. "The alphabet starts at D!"

Now Jack’s locked up below decks and Rose is trying to rescue him. Rose is very bad at convincing people to help her — she’s a little too shouty and pushy — but she is very good at finding axes! So everything is going to be okay (haahahahahah it’s Titanic no it’s not).

Frank, like I said, I am not one of those girls for whom Titanic was the great epic love story of my youth. (That title goes to the animated series Gargoyles.) However, I will admit this: The scene where Jack and Billy Zane convince Rose to get on a lifeboat but at the last second she jumps back on board because she can’t leave Jack and she and jack rush towards each other and hug and he kisses her face a whole bunch and says “You’re so stupid, Rose” makes me cry EVERY TIME. The ending can suck it, but this scene is the best.

Okay, the montage where a bunch of people prepare to meet death ALSO makes me cry. The cuddling old people? Vasquez telling her kids a bedtime story? Victor Garber being Victor Garber? I am a HUMAN BEING, FRANK.

"I'm sorry that I didn't build you a stronger ship, young Rose." ::SOB::

But wow, I’d forgotten how jaded you get, eventually, to the horror of it; there’s like twenty minutes straight of nothing but people dying unpleasant deaths. Like, Mamma Mia gets crushed by a smokestack, and a lady clutches her baby and chants that “it’ll all be over soon” and there’s just so much drowning and exploding windows and bodies falling off the boat. Yikes.

Among Jack’s special skills, I’m reminded, are all the secrets to how to survive a sinking ship. Too bad he doesn’t know how to CLIMB ONTO A FLOATING BOARD. OH THAT FUCKING BOARD. I WILL NEVER FORGET THAT BOARD. AND HOW JACK GIVES UP AFTER ONE TRY. Frank, it has been fifteen years since I first saw this movie and almost a hundred years since the Titanic sank (look for Titanic 3-D this April!) and for the love of God I will never stop being mad at how Jack tries exactly once to climb onto the board with Rose and then gives up and freezes to death.

"Wow, how's that board treating you, Rose? That nice warm toasty board. But don't worry, Rose. I'm totally fine here, in the arctic waters. DON'T WORRY ABOUT ME."

Another thing I’d forgotten — this movie goes out of its way to introduce Molly Brown as being an awesome bad-ass, but they then fail to show her doing the shit she was famous for — she tries to get them to go back and save passengers, and then a guy yells at her and she sits down and shuts up. Bullshit.

Okay, so now Jack is dead because he gives up on trying to climb up on the board with Rose, and she says “I’ll never let go” as she LETS GO OF JACK. I know it’s a metaphor, but whatever, let us never forget that Titanic was nominated for all the Oscars except Best Screenplay.

Wait! Wait! It just got worse! Frank, “a woman’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets,” according to Old Lady Rose. The most important thing I forgot about Titanic is how silly it can be.

It’s also (up until the disaster porn towards the end) super-entertaining, with a tremendously appealing cast and a lush attention to detail and only occasionally heavy-handed references to class warfare. All its flaws aside, watching Titanic is a thoroughly compelling experience.

But I never really forgot that.

Love,
Liz

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About Liz Shannon Miller

Liz Shannon Miller, based in Los Angeles, is a writer for the screen and the web, her work including G4's Attack of the Show and the tech blog GigaOM. She also co-hosts the podcast Timey Wimey TV, contributes to the video curation site Here's Some Awesome, and tells her friend Frank about stuff at Liz Tells Frank.

Posted on February 7, 2012, in Movies, Some Spoilers and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Amen. I still really love that movie, but LAWDY is it depressing!

  2. I always figured Jack couldn’t get on that board because his pockets were full of stolen silver.

  3. No, i never saw this movie. I was at sea when it came out and the last thing I really want to go see on my off time is a movie about a sinking ship. You know, I live on those things? NO, I don’t EVER want to see this movie.

  4. This is a very timely review as the Titanic actually sank 100 years ago this April!

  5. Titanic isn’t a love story. It’s a metaphor about capitalism and class struggle. That’s why Jack couldn’t survive

  6. I love titanic and the movie are some sad

  7. its the best movie ive ever see

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