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Joshua Tree, 1951: A Portrait of James Dean (2012)

 -  Drama  -  24 May 2012 (USA)
6.2
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Ratings: 6.2/10 from 465 users  
Reviews: 15 user | 47 critic

An intimate and dreamlike portrait of icon James Dean on the cusp of achieving fame.

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Title: Joshua Tree, 1951: A Portrait of James Dean (2012)

Joshua Tree, 1951: A Portrait of James Dean (2012) on IMDb 6.2/10

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
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The Roommate
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Beverly
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The Roommate's Mother
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João
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Roger (as Edward Singletary Jr.)
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James DeWeerd
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Franco (as Edgar Morais)
Dalilah Rain ...
Violet
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Arthur Rimbaud
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Johnny the Bartender
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Preston
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The Officer
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Claudia
...
The Acting Teacher
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Storyline

JOSHUA TREE, 1951 is an intimate portrait of James Dean on the cusp of achieving notoriety as both a great actor and an American icon. Set primarily in the early 1950s and focusing on Dean's experiences as an up-and-coming actor in Los Angeles, the film is a series of revealing and sometimes dreamlike vignettes that blend biographical and fictionalized elements to present a pivotal moment in a remarkable life. Written by Iconoclastic Features

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The new motion picture about an outsider icon.

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »
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Details

Official Sites:

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Release Date:

24 May 2012 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Portrait of James Dean  »

Box Office

Budget:

$1,000,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Critics and the filmmakers have described the film as "post-queer" or "post-gay". Sexuality is never questioned, discussed, or editorialized in the movie. See more »

Goofs

There is a brief shot of a record player in the apartment just after James Dean moves in with his roommate. It shows a V-M Corporation 1200 series record changer made specifically for General Electric record players. The 1200 series wasn't introduced until around 1955, and this particular model wasn't produced until several years after that, circa 1960. Also, the record player appears to be a stereo. Stereo records and players premiered around 1958. See more »

Soundtracks

Autumn Leaves
Performed by The Exotic Guitars
Courtesy of Ranwood Records
By Arrangement with Vanguard Records
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Like Dean himself ... promising but unfulfilled.
8 September 2013 | by (Kansas City, MO, USA) – See all my reviews

For James Dean fans -- who only made three feature films in his lifetime (East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause and Giant) -- this will lamentably NOT be the biopic many would be hoping for. The title actually gives this away by calling itself a "portrait" of Dean by highlighting a brief portion of his life in Joshua Tree, California in 1951. Dean didn't make "it big" in film until 1955 (the year of his death) and his two consecutive Oscar nominations were posthumous in 56 and 57. This small film highlights a small phase of Dean's life as he struggles with acting and his drive to become famous.

In the film, Dean is taking an acting class to learn the ropes and establish his footing in southern California while he lives with a nice classmate who apparently has some deeper feelings for him -- the film is based upon the writing of this roommate. Much has been said about Dean living a bisexual lifestyle and this film "goes there" -- some won't want to see how much skin is on display here (there isn't even that much but it might upset some is all) -- although the film never really goes into any of the particulars with any of Dean's relationships so the audience never knows if Dean felt anything for anybody else or if all of his moves were calculated and methodical ... hoping something would come from this fling or that encounter.

The film feels rather pretentious at times (it is about James Dean!) but its stylish elements save it from being loathsome and detestable while the acting feels amateurish yet adequate. The landscape and views of Joshua Tree are breathtakingly beautiful and these simple moments in the film are gorgeously shot. There are parts of this that are not great but just when a moment is becoming almost unbearable the film offers up something commendable that makes one take notice.

There is a lot of promise here (like its subject matter) and it is disappointing that the film couldn't be more (again ... like its subject matter). This is probably a hard film to find and track-down and it won't be for everybody; but those fans of Dean's work probably won't mind seeing this small tribute to the star trying to make it in 1951 while not catching any breaks. It isn't much and is rather lite.

Joshua Tree, 1951 is more "art" than anything else ... it is a what if (as most of it is merely alleged; but what isn't?). James himself is a what if ... if only. There was something there with Dean ... and there is something here too. It just comes up short and never lives up to its potential. Again ... truly fitting and the disappointment one feels as the credits role is the exact disappointment that should be felt for this life that was cut short.

If this were the filmmaker's intent, I'd say "genius"; but I'm not certain of that. As is, though, ... it is quite good.


5 of 6 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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