Every other week Jack Reda, The Script Doctor, tells the powers that be in Hollywood why they should listen to him. You decide if he's right.


After the special effects, Titanic is really a pretty terrible movie.

Gasp!  How can someone say such a thing about an Oscar-winning movie?

Well, actually, that sort of thing gets said all the time about any Oscar winner.  In fact, every movie (no matter how good or bad) has at least one idiot that loved it, and one idiot that hated it.

I didn't hate Titanic, but I was a little disappointed (more so when it won Best Picture). I am a big fan of James Cameron, and I know he can tell a great story (I was one of those that really liked The Abyss, even the ending). So I the storyline of Titanic kind of let me down.

Not that I am against romantic fare, or a love story with an epic backdrop. Au contraire. But if you have an epic backdrop like the sinking of the Titanic, don't you think you owe it to yourself to punch up the romance? This romantic tale of Jack and Rose was a no-brainer from the get go. Cal Hockley (Billy Zane) is a slimy, sleazy, self-centered, plotting, violent man engaged to the intelligent and progressive Rose Bukater (Kate Winslet). Even her mother is self-serving, needing Rose to marry a wealthy man she doesn't love so she can remain in the lifestyle to which she's grown accustomed.

Along comes rough-around-the-edges, devil-may-care, insert-your-own-hyphenated-adjective Jack Dawson (Leo DiCapinator) who sees in Rose a headstrong, but unhappy woman, with whom he can impart his joie de vivre attitude.

Well, pretty cut and dried, isn't it? Of course she's going to dump Cal in a heartbeat. Where's the conflict? There's no emotional bond between Rose and her mother, so why should she care what happens? There are no redeeming qualities in Cal (not even his money is attractive to Rose), so why should she even hesitate?

Without the backdrop of the Sinking Ship, there is NO story here. A good story relies on one thing to really get the blood pumping (and no, it's not a midnight Cinemax story I'm talking about here)... it's CONFLICT. By which I do not mean Cal needs to want to kill Jack, and chase him around with a gun.  Not that kind of conflict (not in this case anyway). Rose needs to feel conflicted about her situation.  There needs to be a reason for her to have doubts about running off with poor (but hunky) Jack. What on earth could have made this movie better? Plenty.

For starters, why did Rose's mother have to be such a sourpuss?  Why not make her an affable older lady, and maybe give her poor health (thus providing a more humanitarian reason for the Bukaters to need a wealthier lifestyle)?

Why not give Cal something resembling three dimensions, so he isn't such a cardboard villain?  You already have the ridiculously named Spicer Lovejoy (David Warner) as a two-dimensional bad guy, why add another? Why, I ask you??

Cal's character should have been immensely likable, at first. Rose should have been content to marry him (maybe not thrilled, since it is a marriage of convenience in many ways, but at least resigned to it in a 'maybe I will grow to love him' way). Then, she meets Jack, who is very interesting and alluring... but he's poor, and Cal is good enough, so she doesn't go leaping into his arms just yet.

At this point, Rose discovers that Cal has ONE very serious
character flaw. Maybe he has a violent temper, and strikes her.  Well, now we know that Rose can never be happy with a man like this (and the audience is totally on her side, regardless of how much they may have liked that Hockley guy in the beginning). In tears, realizing she can never go through with the marriage but unable to face her mother about it, Rose decides to leap from the boat. But she is saved from fate by plucky Jack Dawson....now the love story can really develop. Of course Jack loves her right away, but he isn't going to interfere so quickly. He's a good guy, and initially Cal seemed like an okay bloke.

Rose tells Jack that Cal is a bad bad man after all, but what can she do? Oh, if only she could get by on a wing and a prayer like Jack... but she has mom to think about. Don't worry Rose, says Jack, we'll find a way to take care of your mom, and you won't have to worry about Cal....


Iceberg, dead ahead... boat sinks, Cal goes crazy, Jack dies, special effects give everyone nifty breath clouds, and the movie ends in a swell of "soon to be annoying" music. Rose doesn't have to hide from the dastardly Cal. She can face him, like the headstrong, progressive woman we described her as above. Even mom is on her side, and together they can make it in America!

You get to keep ALL the things you liked about the movie, but now it has a point! And heck, you didn't even need that whole Jewel of the Nile crap, which means adios to Bill Paxton and the disgusting fat guy.

Jack Reda


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