Joshua Tree, 1951: A Portrait of James Dean

DIRECTOR: Matthew Mishory

Expected guests: director Matthew Mishory, actors Robert Gant, James Preston, Edward Singletary, Jr.

Grab your Wayfarers and hop in a fifties vintage car for a road trip to Joshua Tree, 1951 in this sumptuously filmed, neo-noir portrait of James Dean just before he finds fame. Breathtaking views of the arid landscape and lush gardens at poolside cocktail parties create a dreamy atmosphere that lure the viewer in, as writer/director Matthew Mishory’s story blends biographical and re-imagined parts of James Dean’s life. James Preston, cast as Dean, bears a stunning and strikingly handsome resemblance to the outsider icon.

The film seeks to redefine Dean for a new generation, by examining his complicated sexuality and his formative relationships. Dean’s roommate and fellow struggling actor (Dan Glenn) is along for the ride from their Santa Monica apartment to the desert. The roommate is a quiet source of refuge as well as a passport to a world of cultural refinement. Accompanying them is femme fatale, Violet (Dalilah Rain), a would-be starlet who struggles to survive within the postwar Hollywood machine.

Complex love triangles develop and twist, sometimes with tearful innocence, sometimes with tense consequences. The film cuts back and forth in time, from the pool to the desert, from intimacy to isolation. The binaries set up in the storytelling parallel those in Dean’s life—he is childlike and jaded; sensitive, yet brutal; and a Rimbaud-reading-intellectual as well as an Indiana-born tough guy. It reveals a remarkably beautiful portrayal of this man who was incredibly focused on refashioning himself as the great American actor.

— KEVIN SCHAUB

AT&T Audience Award Text Voting Code: F120

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