I know what you’re thinking: Girl, Imma let you finish, but Rose and Jack are the best love story of all time.
Yes, you’re right. Buoyed by the incredible, sincere performances of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, even James Cameron’s stilted script manages to sound downright Shakespearean. Every time I watch the movie—which was just re-released in theaters on its 20th anniversary—I ball my eyes out. Not when Jack dies, to be sure, but when he lies to Rose about having an “arrangement” with Cal, and Rose looks up as she’s being lowered into the lifeboat and watches the fireworks break behind his sad, I’ll-never-see-you-again face. And then she hurls herself out of the lifeboat and back onto the sinking ship and they sprint toward each other and embrace by the grand staircase (😫), and he’s all “Why did you do that, Rose? You’re so stupid!,” and they’re crying and laughing and you’re crying and laughing and this is when Cal totally loses it because everyone realizes at once that these two people are really in love.
Because I love Titanic as much as I do, I re-watch it every few years, and it’s become a veritable litmus test for where I am in my love life. When I saw it for the first time, in a movie theater, at the tender age of 9, I was bored stiff. I covered my eyes during the sex scene and my father hissed at me to open them up again because we paid good money for this movie. When I saw it again at 21, having gone through my first harrowing breakup, I cried at every other scene and by the end I was just wailing Why must love dieeee. When I watched it this week, during the limited theater run for its 20th anniversary, now 29 and admittedly seasoned and a bit cynical, I found myself thinking, “She should have gone back to Cal.”
Because sex in a steamy car is all well and good, but at the end of the day, what you really need is a man who comes looking for you down in steerage after you’ve stolen a priceless diamond and run off with your sidepiece. Here’s my argument. And for more Hollywood coverage, don’t miss these 8 Best Movies About the British Royal Family.
Cal’s Not Really So Bad
Our first big tipoff that Cal is a jerk is that he orders for Rose at the table. Does Rose even like lamb “rare, with a little bit of mint sauce?” Did you bother to ask? No, and you had the gaul to put out her cigarette, too. Not very feminist, Cal. Then, he throws a wittle baby temper tantrum when she goes “gallivanting in the below decks.”
Throwing a bunch of precious china around is a definite red flag, but he isn’t violent with her, and put yourself in his place: you give your fiance a priceless diamond, make a big speech about how much you love her, and instead of spending time with you, she runs off and starts macking it to some dude she just met. You’d probably be a wee bit on edge as well. Then there’s his biggest transgression: the whole pulling out a gun and trying to shoot the two of them after realizing they are hardcore in love. Again, not his finest moment, but it’s already a sticky situation and it’s made worse by the fact that you’re on a sinking ship that doesn’t have enough lifeboats so we’re all a little on edge, OK? I mean, really, Cal’s biggest issue is that he can’t let go of the fact that Rose simply doesn’t love him, and who of us haven’t been guilty of that in our youth? It’s kind of tragic to watch him get all excited by giving her a diamond the size of a fist and all she does is stare back at him in the mirror like he’s the world’s ugliest rock.
Rose and Jack Would Have Never Worked Out
I hate to make the joke that, if they’d stayed, they would have ended up like Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet’s miserably married characters in Revolutionary Road, but the more I watch the film, the more I think this is a standard cruise romance. Living under a bridge in Paris with your hobo lover is romantic when you’re out at sea, but it loses its luster a bit when you hit land and realize he gave you lice.
Rose Is Really, Really Mean to Him
I get that Cal is super arrogant and controlling, but, like, is that really an excuse to put a nude drawing of you, sketched by your sidepiece, into his safe, especially when in all probability he hasn’t even seen your ankles yet? That’s like the 1912 version of sending your fiance a selfie of you in bed with your new boy toy when the two of you haven’t even done it yet. Personally, I think it’s pretty big of him to put his coat over her because she looked cold after she did something so wantonly savage.
No Matter How Mean She Is, He Still Tries to Help Her
Then, she spits in his face, just because he’s trying to get her into a lifeboat and save her life! He doesn’t need to do that. He could have hightailed the hell out of there on another boat. But he genuinely cares. And, then, after dumping him for like the 17th time, he still comes looking for her in steerage on the rescue ship. At this point, it doesn’t even seem like he’s trying to get her back. The gun scene is when he realized once and for all that she was madly in love with the gutter rat, and he doesn’t even know his competition is a block of ice at the bottom of the ocean by now. He just wants to see if she’s OK. In the extended version of that scene, it’s even more poignant, because you see that Rose’s mother doesn’t go looking for her, despite being her mother. Rose talked back to her once and she was like #girlbye forever. But Cal slumps around like a sad puppydog, trying to find her in the crowd of refugees, and Rose sees him and straight up ghosts him. Girl, even for an iceberg, that’s cold.
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