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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Giant (1956)



Reviews and Comments

Giant's reputation as James Dean's last film -- he died a few days after finishing his work on it -- is at least as large as its 202 minute running time. Which is really too bad, because this is not a James Dean film. Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson are the stars, both wonderful, the latter turning in a fine performance of a complex character critical to the success of the film.

Giant is, essentially a soap western, chronicling the lives of a few characters in a slowly changing society over the course of 25 years. It is epic in scope, dealing with a lot of different issues. The most notable from a historical perspective is its depiction of prejudice against Mexicans in Texas. This is one of the earliest films to deal with racism in such depth.

Ironically, Giant's greatest fault is that it is too short. Even at three hours, 22 minutes, it cruises through a few critical subplots too quickly, particularly in the second hour when births, weddings, and deaths occur, but we miss how the characters feel about them.

When the film decides to take its time, however, it is terrific. Howard Hawks once said that a good movie has three good scenes and no bad ones. Giant has a lot more than three, occurring with increasing frequency and emotional complexity as it goes. Thus, while it is not a classic, it is very good, a shining example of what fine things can happen when a movie is given room to reach broadly and deeply.