Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Jackie Brown

(If you happen to be in SLO come out and watch some Jackie Brown at The Palm tonight)

Watching Jackie Brown today is like watching a film from the filmmaker Tarantino could have become. While I feel using the term maturation does disservice to the movie’s Tarantino has made since then, all of which I love (yes even Death Proof) there is no denying that Jackie Brown is a very adult work, while Tarantino’s other films are fueled by a more anarchic adolescent sensibility. It’s a peek down the road not taken.

Which isn’t to say that there’s not a whole lot of Tarantino’s trademark irreverent humor, intextuality (“Killer had a Forty Five THEY want a Forty Five.”) deliciously rich dialogue and key little moments (“Is this the Delfonics?). But it all feels different somehow, like a seventies crime film, something like The Friends Of Eddie Coyle or Charley Varrick. Low key, grungy and very human.

Of course part of that has to do with the fact that Jackie Brown is based off of one of Elmore Leonard’s, the king of Seventies Crime Fiction, Novel’s. The other part of it has to do with the fact that half of Tarantino’s excellent cast could have stared in any of those seventies films. Robert Forester, Pam Grier, and Robert De Niro (Maybe the last cinematic evidence of him giving a fuck, this or Ronin I go back and forth) all do amazing work. Particularly Forester in an understated, somehow heartbroken performance. Forester isn’t any kind of badass. He’s just a guy who knows how to handle himself. He uses his competency like an armor, but somehow remains endearingly vulnerable. He’s just such a hangdog you can’t help but feel for him.

The movie of course belongs to Grier. Who brings to Brown a sense of compelling sadness and weary, along with her trademark sexiness and cool. There’s a real sense of soul to Jackie. She’s someone whose missed a lot of chances in her life and senses this might be her last one. Even getting killed is preferable to missing another shot.

The rest of the cast is fantastic as well. Samuel Jackson, is fantastic as Ordell, a sentient ball of jovial malevolence. The pleasure that Jackson gets from the role and the pleasure Ordell gets from himself are inseparable. And when he starts to really lose his shit as the film goes on, he becomes a genuinely menacing figure.

The rest of the cast is great too. Particularly Bridget Fonda as an aging Sex Kitten, and Michael Keaton as a DEA cop. Hell even Chris Tucker Rises to the level of tolerable.

The plot of Jackie Brown is purposefully low stakes. A couple hundred thousand up for grab after a misplaced baggie of Cocaine gives the police leverage over the titular character, a low level runner for the weapon’s dealer Ordell Robbie. Ordell uses the services of Bondsman Max Cherry to get the witnesses against him sprung from the police, then executes them. Together Cherry and Brown devise a plan to rip off both the Feds and Ordell. People start to lose their shit, people start to die.

Tarantino shoots the whole thing in a natural sunny California bright light. Jackie Brown doesn’t look like a crime film. Even De Palma’s Scarface had more scenes shot in the shadows then this. There’s none of the mad plotting of Tarantino’s other films. It’s as he describes it, a hang out movie, kind of like a crime movie directed by Richard Linklater. Except you know not terrible like The Newton Boys was.

Jackie Brown may be a divergence but it is by no means minor. Simply put there are very few films so purely pleasurable to watch.


The Mad Hatter said...

Tarantino directing Leonard's I in heaven?

It's been far too long since I've watched this movie (read: months not years), but everytime I do I'm still amused at how much backlash it took on release and how it was even considered a flop by some.

Goes to show what a little time and perspective can do, doesn't it?

Evil Dead Junkie said...

Yeah it cracks me up. Huge Backlash that it was released, followed immediately after by a huge backlash that Tarantino didn't keep making movies like this.

Troy Olson said...

I was late to the game on seeing this one (perhaps I bought in to that backlash initially, I can't remember), but when I finally did get around to watching, it blew everything else Tarantino has ever done out of the water.

This is his only movie that truly has emotional resonance and isn't just a bunch of tricks and homages (WELL DONE, ENTERTAINING tricks and homages, but it is what it is).

I think you summed it up perfectly in that initial paragraph -- "Watching Jackie Brown today is like watching a film from the filmmaker Tarantino could have become... there is no denying that Jackie Brown is a very adult work, while Tarantino’s other films are fueled by a more anarchic adolescent sensibility. It’s a peek down the road not taken."

Oh, and Forster and Greer were outstanding in this (and again, the only time in a Tarantino film where I cared about a relationship).

Evil Dead Junkie said...

See the thing is I don't think Tarantino doesn't get enough credit for how emotionally resonant his films are.

I touched on this in my Kill Bill Vol 2. review. Sure at the beginning of the film Bill and The Bride are outrageous caricatures but by the end I was fully invested.

Troy Olson said...

Okay...KB2 totally slipped my mind. That is a pretty good example of emotional resonance and at showing a male/female relationship. I may have been a tad too hasty in brushing off Quentin's abilities there.

I'll be sure to go back and read your other posts on Tarantino's films...

The Film Connoisseur said...

Dont know why, but I havent seen this one since it was first released. I think I really didnt "get it" the first time I saw it. I didnt know as much about Tarantino as I do know, or about films...I think I would appreciate it a whole lot more if I watched it now. Gotta give it a re-watch!

Dennis Cozzalio said...

I love that poster mock-up!

I first saw JACKIE BROWN when it was released during the Christmas holiday at one of those little cinemas off to the side of the glorious Fremont in downtown SLO, coincidentally. I was disappointed that it wasn't in the big theater. And it really is time to revsiit this one, which I hold pretty close to my heart.

BTW, EDJ, I may have occasion to visit SLO soon. If and when things firm up, I'll let you know!

Evil Dead Junkie said...

@ FC It's definitely worth a look. Once you adjust to the slower pace I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

@Dennis: Please Do! I look forward to it. My email's on my profile, and I'll send you my phone number.

Neil Fulwood said...

It's a damn shame 'Jackie Brown' didn't find favour with the masses the way 'Dogs' or 'Pulp Fiction' did. The movies Tarantino has directed since have all been belters (I've even come to love 'Death Proof', after a somewhat underwhelmed first viewing), but they've all been self-consciously movie movies. 'Jackie Brown' has all the requisite Tarantino-isms and snatches of quotable dialogue you'd expect, but its aesthetic took Tarantino in a different direction. You absolutely nail the appeal of this film as a fascinating glimpse down a path not taken.

Evil Dead Junkie said...

Well thank you sir.

Jay Clarke said...

Jackie Brown is definitely the most mature film Tarantino has made, kind of like something you'd expect him to make way later in his career. I also think Robert Forster's character (and performance) is one of the best in a Tarantino film period.