Giant is the ‘other’ James Dean movie. It’s not Rebel Without a Cause, it’s not East of Eden. It’s the one that sometimes seems to be looked down on a little and seen as only a curiosity based on the James Dean factor. But having watched Giant, all 3 hours and 20 minutes of it, I think it’s a great example of a kind of grand, extravagant film making that just doesn’t exist anymore.
A few fights and flirts with Jett and Bick later, Leslie grows into her role as a rancher’s wife and Giant takes a couple of jumps in the timeline, using their growing children and events like WWII as indicators as to where we are in the saga. Once old enough, the Benedict’s eldest daughter threatens to head into Wuthering Heights territory with Jett, adding another reason for Bick to hate him even more as the years pass.
Even at its mammoth running time, Giant never slows down or becomes boring. It covers roughly a quarter of a century and follows its characters through enough interesting story arcs to keep moving at a pretty cracking pace. But even if it didn’t, the likes of Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean would make it possible to watch any old crap for hours on end. Even in the later scenes when their old people make up is less than convincing, these three still manage to make their characters compelling, never goofy.
In the trio of major James Dean appearances, I’d definitely rate this over East of Eden and maybe even put it above Rebel Without a Cause. I was seriously concerned about the running time as the opening credits began to roll, and I’ll admit to taking a break half way through, but not out of boredom. Just out of my own inability to sit still for that long. Honestly, I wouldn’t have minded if Giant was twice as long.