Teen Volunteer Review: Giant

Boston Public Library's teen volunteer program has gone remote! As part of this program, local high schoolers will be sharing their thoughts on books, movies, and more on our blog. Today, Elizabeth Choi, a student at Boston Latin School, is reviewing the 1956 epic Giant.

Giant, starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean, follows the Benedict family in Texas for twenty-five years, through ups and downs. The film isn’t about any one thing in particular but encompasses a wide range of issues including wealth, racism, and sexism.

I liked it; it was memorable in more ways than just as James Dean’s swan song. The acting was superb -- it was my first Elizabeth Taylor movie and it won’t be my last. I also enjoyed the shots of Bick Benedict’s mansion shrunken amid Texas’s immensity. It was also interesting to see the characters age and mature as the years passed.

However, I wish the early romance between Bick (Hudson) and Leslie (Taylor) was better established. There seemed to be no real feelings between the two preceding their marriage. I also wanted James Dean’s character Jett Rink to be better developed. Despite being central to the plot, he only appeared on-screen for a short amount of time compared to the three-hour-plus movie.

For example, why did he love Leslie so much? I understand his initial infatuation with her; she’s beautiful, kind, and smart, and the fact that she was Bick’s wife probably made her even more desirable to Jett’s eyes. But she was on his mind for more than two decades. Maybe Edna Ferber dives deeper into these topics in her novel and the movie was already too long for George Stevens to include these scenes.

I was thinking about Giant long after Juana’s son faded from the screen. There’s something melancholy about this movie beyond Jett Rink’s downfall that I might find when I watch it again. Or maybe I’m just sad because I know that James Dean will never be the fifty-year-old that he acted. Either way, it was a thought-provoking movie that I’d definitely recommend.