Titanic is a picture that claims a place in the top 25 for both of us — that’s Annemarie and Brooke, of course. So, when we found out our dear friend Rebecca had never seen the second half of the movie, we jumped at the opportunity to watch it, quote along and generally spread the Titanic love. Yes, James Cameron is kind of the worst. The writing is sometimes epically terrible. And the controversy over the door remains — though I swear the internet tells us it has “finally been settled” at least thrice a year. But dammit if we don’t unironically and unapologetically adore this movie.
AM, tell us all about why you love it, your recollections of first seeing it, and your favorite bit of dialogue to quote. You know I’ll return the favor.
A: Let’s start at the beginning. The film came out the first Friday of winter vacation my freshman year of high school. I made my mom buy me and two friends tickets to the first showing of the day over the phone because I was terrified we’d show up and it would be sold out. You can probably picture the three of us, getting to the theater unreasonably early, and I believe there were perhaps only 3-4 other people in attendance. This was way before the Thursday midnight screening became a thing, or I would have camped out in a heartbeat.
After that, I went with various other friends (as well as that original group) many, many times to see Titanic in theaters. I paid for the film at least six times and on two other occasions, I know we went to the theater to see another film and would go see Titanic at whatever point it was at after our film was done. This was possible because Titanic was in theaters for approximately 10 years. You also better believe I attended the 2012 “100 Year Anniversary” screening in theaters as well.
I love it for many reasons, first of all: Leo. He was the dreamboat for my exact demographic, and while I adored him in Romeo + Juliet, Titanic was where he truly shined. He looked good, he got to woo the girl, save her heroically, and then of course, die tragically. My love of Kate Winslet has grown over the years, but I was pretty jealous of her at the time. I also think the entire framework of the story was what caught me up so well, and what holds my attention even almost 20 years (!) later. There’s something so romantic and captivating about the Titanic itself, all the stories of survival and tragic death, the ways it could have been easily prevented. Humans are suckers for a good tragedy, Shakespeare knew that and it’s still so very true.
Well, to be honest, the dialogue isn’t my favorite part of the movie (Cameron being the worst, and all), but I do enjoy Kathy Bates’ Molly Brown at luncheon: You gonna cut her meat for her, too, Cal?
All the same questions, back at you, Brooke!
B: First, I’ll clarify that one mustn’t like the dialogue to enjoy quoting the dialogue. An activity I know you’re no more capable of resisting than I am. I like to quote-along with most anything Rose says because it helps me to daydream of a first class experience. But the Old Rose voiceover is so over the top that it is the absolute best. “Afterward, the 700 people in the boats had nothing to do but wait. Wait to die. Wait to live. Wait for an absolution that would never come.”
I saw Titanic in theaters for my ninth birthday — being a late December baby gets a bad wrap, but it has a few perks and one of them is prestige movies. I hadn’t yet seen Romeo + Juliet, being rather more of a youth than you, but I was well aware of Leo. And I still remember feeling my head snap to the left when I heard his voice. And allowing a swoon when I first saw his brow furrowed over those cards. I definitely shared your jealousy of Kate the Great, but in the intervening years I’ve come to realize that she delivers far and away the better performance. It’s more nuanced. Leo just relies on his adorableness and playing the humble hero (definitely how he was scripted, but Kate overcame those limits). I too found it utterly captivating, but I only saw it twice in theaters. When it came out on VHS though, all bets were off. Do you recall a persistent rumor that the VHS was going to be released at a $100 price point? For some reason that rumor floats into my brain from time-t0-time.
Anyway, I suppose my love for it really is rooted in the fact that it came into my life at such a formative age. How could I not look back at it and love it? Also, we both know I’m a sucker for a period piece. Possibly that began here, but this movie certainly scratches that itch. The production value is still pretty immaculate, and the costumes. Oh my word the costumes. Speaking of, let’s get to the reason this article is a thing: Rose’s FABULOUS dresses. Pick your top three, if you please.
A: We’ll all just agree that James Cameron cannot write convincing human-to-human dialogue, and that’s the part of the movie that’s aged the worst. The visual effects hold up quite spectacularly. We happened to catch the end of Twister on TV recently, and there’s a big explosion when Westley insists that his driver keep driving into a “finger of god” F-5 tornado and they predictably die. The explosion looks super hokey now, but it was impressive in 1996.
But I digress, this is about Titanic.
OMG THE DRESSES. Top favorite of all time, the white and purple striped number Rose wears when boarding Titanic. Other honorable mentions include the rose and black sequined dress she wears when Jack joins them for dinner, as well as the pale green gown she wears when Cal flips the table. Quick, your faves!
Since we’ve agreed already that Kate’s performance is the best but Leo’s still the cutest, let’s move onto favorite tertiary characters. Also, what are your exact thoughts about the Celine Dion song? Love it? Hate it? I also remember threats that the two-tape VHS set would be $100 so that must have been a thing. I can’t recall how much it ended up costing back in 1998, but I do know that my mom, sister and I all bought a copy. My dad still gives us shit about it, but I knew that I’d be leaving home (like 3 years from then, but still), so I wanted to make sure I always had a copy.
B: This is my new favorite Moody Clan fact. But, to the point at hand, the dresses. Is ALL OF THEM an acceptable answer? No? Okay. If I must pick, I agree that the one she wears when boarding the ship is the absolute best. It’s timeless and oh so fantastic. That dinner dress is also to die for, 10/10 would sneak off to a third-class dance party with Jack in it. Rounding out my top picks is the nice lavender dress she wears the night of the sinking. It’s delicate enough to be equally perfect when running through an engine room attempting to escape an intense valet and then, later ordering your boyfriend to take you to the stars before putting the moves on him. Good on ya, Rose.
As for the Celine Dion song, I love it. Sorry, not sorry. Will still sing it anytime I hear it. Actually, I quite like the soundtrack as a whole, I have the score on my massive soundtracks playlist. And some of the period songs are on my old timey soundtracks playlist (for all those times I’m daydreaming about an upper-crust existence in a period drama.)
I guess what we’re saying here, is that all that pomp and circumstance, and the pairing of two of the best screen stars of our generation was all a perfect storm. What else do we need to discuss?!
A: I have a few more thoughts, per the usual. I concur absolutely with the love of the soundtrack. I owned it on CD (duh) and was a favorite companion for road trips the summer following the release of the film. Another fun fact for your Moody Clan logs! One of the radio stations in Denver did a mash-up of “Southampton” with bits of dialogue from throughout the film, and I was obsessed. I had my tape recorder primed to capture it for a mix tape since you couldn’t buy it and this was very pre-internet download. I actually called into the station to request it but the DJ had no idea what I was talking about and instead requested I do one of those “real” call-in stories instead. I said random things on queue and listened an hour later when the DJ used my voice to create a story about a cheating boyfriend.
We’ve discussed compiling a post of all the movie and TV moments that make us cry, and Titanic goes to the top of the list. I distinctly recall crying a LOT the second time I saw this film, primarily when the orchestra heroes play “Nearer My God to Thee” and we see the third-class Irish mom tucking in her kids and the first-class elderly couple (representing the real-life Ida and Isador Straus, who was the co-owner of Macy’s). I was SOBBING at this point. And I don’t fall into hysterics still, but I do get a bit teary at this point when I re-watch. It’s such a personal set of moments in the film that perfectly dovetails into the screaming, chaotic catastrophe that you see directly afterward.
Brooke, any embarrassing teenage (or for you, pre-teen) anecdotes related to Titanic? Also, please describe the amount of weeping you experienced watching this film.
B: Please tell me you have audio of your voice being manipulated into a cheating boyfriend story. I need that in my life. So much. I don’t think I have a specific embarrassing Titanic memories, but I will tell you that I did have a replica Heart of the Ocean, and I definitely picked out the closest version of a dress I could find to Kate’s when I went to a fancy ballet the same December the movie came out.
Now, as for the weeping, I don’t think I actually cried in the movie when it was in theaters. I was newly nine-years-old and I don’t the gravity quite hit me at that point. However, I do recall seeing it with new eyes a few years later and losing it in the very same sequence you described. The other cues that really get me are: every time the band keeps playing, Mr. Andrews setting back the clock, Rose looking sadly at the woman on the other side of the railing who doesn’t have a Jack to hold her tight and the china floating in the water. But the worst one of all? The one that still brought a few full-bodied tears to my eyes this last time we watched? Rose’s dream reunion/wedding at the clock. Damn, that’s brutal. I’m misting up a bit right now.
Annemarie, I have one last question for you. Do you think the White Star Line has gotten our strongly worded letters yet?
A: I mean, is there anything more tragically and romantically hot than Leo (ON HIS LITERAL DEATHBED) promising to make his displeasure known about his free trip across the Atlantic? I think not.