A Remake Chronicles Extra by Adam-Troy Castro
I don’t hate James Cameron’s TITANIC as much as it’s currently fashionable to — I have problems with it, but among other things, it captures the epic chaos and terror of that night perfectly well, thank you — but I have always despised the final scene where Old Rose hobbles to the railing of the salvage ship and gleefully tosses the necklace into the sea.
This is a fine grand dramatic gesture if you don’t bother to think about it for so much as thirty seconds.
But in fact it’s a profoundly selfish moment, one that makes me want to slap the old woman.
To start with: her entire motive in undertaking the arduous journey back to the North Atlantic, and telling Bill Pullman’s researchers her story, is making sure Leonardo DeCaprio’s Jack is remembered. There is no real record of his existence, no indication that her story is true. She tells the story with such passion that the researchers end up believing her, but others won’t; her possession of the necklace is the ONLY PROOF that she was on the Titanic, and that everything she has said is true. By tossing it over the side she completely destroys any possibility that Jack’s story will be re-told and believed, and that what she sees as his heroism will be remembered by a new generation. A profoundly selfish and self-destructive moment.
Secondly: what about her granddaughter? A robust, attractive woman in her thirties, perhaps forties, who has given up much of her daily life to be her caregiver? Isn’t that, in its own way, just as grand a love story? Doesn’t that deserve a tribute? Wouldn’t it have served her granddaughter to now produce the jewel, hand it over, and request whatever finder’s fee the researchers might be willing to provide, even if it’s only the operating expenses that ship spends on a single day, to set up the granddaughter when old Rose is finally gone?
My logical problem with the last flashback of TITANIC — young Rose finding the necklace in her pocket — has always been that, since her continued possession of it proves that she didn’t sell it, she arrived in America operationally penniless, and without an identity she could reveal, and therefore would have been immediately deported from America as so many TITANIC steerage widows and orphans again. I justify this in my mind by remembering that evil Cal also stuffed the pockets of that coat with bundles of cash, and that she therefore arrived in America as the equivalent of a multi-millionaire in today’s terms, well able to afford the life of adventure we know she had. (I only wish that the movie had re-established the cash as well, to clarify this for viewers who want to know how she avoided ending up on the streets, selling herself.) But that’s ultimately acceptable, as the answer is in the film, just not sufficiently stressed. Tossing the necklace, on the other hand…is stupid and evil.