Saturday, April 8, 2017

Brandon's #88: Jackie Brown (Quentin Tarantino, 1997)

I've seen this four times. The last time was with my brother and four of my friends. My parents were out of town so we decided to have an outdoor matinee. I grabbed the extension cord and disconnected their flat screen and DVD player. We watched it under the stars. This was one of my favorite communal movie experiences and this is my favorite Tarantino picture.

Lately I've found myself disillusioned by him. I don't know what has changed in me. The same style of jibber jabber that once had me so dazzled now feels dulled and lacking the same urgency. It might be my own familiarity with his dialogue, or perhaps his prose doesn't work as well in the Western genre. I'm sure that his recent fixation on racial friction hasn't always worked, but I love his inability to walk away from it. HATEFUL EIGHT hits a lot of redundant notes to no avail, even so I think it's got more going on than most movies these days. I just hope he can get it done in less time. I guess my point in pointing out his recent failings is to note that JACKIE BROWN is damn near flawless.

It's also lovely. You can feel the love for the cast, love for Elmore Leonard, love for cinema and specifically the process of making a movie. There isn't a moment that feels wasted or superfluous. You love watching this woman double cross both sets of self-serving men. Tarantino is often better when writing for women. I never mind spending the two plus hours with the eponymous character as portrayed by Pam Grier (among the most attractive performances ever, if I may be so creepy). The same can be said for the rest of the cast. This is one of the best ensembles ever.

I'll limit this to just one Tarantino, though KILL BILL VOL. 2 and DEATH PROOF are among my personal favorites. I get why he polarizes so many, though I'm always wary of groupthink. JACKIE BROWN seems to stand apart for even the most weathered dissidents. I'm admittedly far from that crowd, but this movie is something worth agreeing about.


  1. Just finished watching Jackie Brown, and before that I finished an episode of Justified. It's been an Elmore Leonard day for me.

    I can remember trying to sit down and watch JB on two separate occasions, but it never happened. I can't believe I went this long without seeing it, since it was the only Tarantino holdout for me(again, unintentionally so).

    I was very impressed. In the opening scenes, you can definitely tell it's Tarantino, but as the film goes on it seems like a more subdued version of his work. Given how over the top some of his scenes and films can be, I mean that as a compliment. It feels more polished than some of his other movies. As you said, there isn't a moment that feels superfluous or wasted. Quentin's scripts never lack confidence, but this one seemed more mature. I suppose that some of that is due to Elmore Leonard, though I would never discard QT's ability to adapt a screenplay and put his own stamp on it.

    Agreed, the ensemble is perfect in this, including the bit parts like Bridget Fonda and Michael Keaton. But it's hard not to be blown away by Grier, Jackson, and Forster in this. Love the Grier/Forster relationship.

    I have my first Tarantino coming up in the 70s on my list. I'm excited to talk about it. I'm probably due for another viewing of Death Proof. Each time I watch it, I appreciate and enjoy it more. I also agree that Tarantino is better at writing for women, and that is a fine example. But Kurt Russell is obviously amazing in that as well.

  2. No Tarantino on my list, but I'll watch everything he puts out. I think it's kinda cool these days to dismiss Pulp Fiction (not saying that you're doing that), but to me, it's still his best film for its energy and writing. He's more in control in some of the later work (Basterds, H8teful), but he's never quite as exuberant as he was near the beginning.