Saturday, February 15, 2014
JEFF OF THE CINEFILES: HALL OF FAME: FILE #0030: JACKIE BROWN (1997)
Written & Directed By: Quentin Tarantino
Based On The Novel “RUM PUNCH” By: Elmore Leonard
Cinematography By: Guillermo Navarro
Editor: Sally Menke
Cast: Pam Grier, Robert Forster, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Keaton, Michael Bowen, Bridget Fonda, Robert DeNiro, Chris Tucker, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Tony “Tiny” Lister, Sid Haig, Aimee Graham, T’Keyah Crystal Keymah,
Jackie Brown is the name of a flight attendant who gets caught smuggling her boss' gun money on the airline she works for. Luckily for her, the Fed Ray Nicolet and the LA Cop Mark Dargus decide to team up in order to arrest the arms dealer she works for, whose name they don't even know. Here's when she has to choose one way: tell Nicolet and Dargus about Ordell Robbie (the arms dealer) and get her freedom -except that if Ordell suspects you're talking about him, you're dead- or keep her mouth shut and do some time. That's when she meets Max Cherry -her bail bondsman-, a late fifties, recently separated, burnt-out man, who falls in love with her. Then Jackie comes up with a plan to play the Feds off against Ordell and the guys he works with -Louis Gara and Melanie Ralston, among others- and walk off with their money. But she needs Max's help. No one is going to stand in the way of his million dollar payoff...
I remember being excited getting to see this film before audiences. At a test screening. though since it seemed like the film was finished, more like an advanced screening to get buzz going and get word of mouth about how good the film was. Especially as this was Quentin Tarantino's follow up to PULP FICTION. In remember loving this film even though someone in the audience fell asleep and snored throughout the film and some guy sitting close to me who seemed to gage his enjoyment of he film by it's soundtrack. Track by track as once he heard a 70's song in the beginning 30 minutes of the film proclaiming this is the best part of the movie and at the end when Pam Grier shares a kiss with another character. This is the worst part of the movie. As the film kept going my amazement grew. Especially the appearance of Michael Keaton. Who hadn't been in a film for awhile here playing a more serious role.
Pam Grier had tested for the part in Pulp Fiction that eventually went to Rosanna Arquette. Quentin Tarantino didn't forget her however, crafting the part of Jackie Brown specifically for the actress.
The film doesn't really have any young characters. It seems the whole cast of characters realizing they are past their prime and knowing what happens now will be forever for them.
No One comes across as one dimensional. They all have depth somewhat. So we get to know he characters while even in the midst of the caper. Even If more of a minor character. You Get the feeling they love to her loves then the film Has time For off Camera. That is the power of the film.
This film. Doesn't hold your hand and go out of items way to show and examine everything for you. Instead it goes for more of a slow burn. Setting up something you expect though truly don't see coming.
Like that at a certain point in the film. Not only do we get to see a transaction that is integral to the story. We get to see it on many different P.O.V But we also get information revealed each time. Moving the story forward little by little. Which ends up being inspired and brilliant as a first nothing is explained as we experience it. It throws off the audience then once you realize what is happening you are already In the grips of the brilliance playing out before you. Never really announcing itself.
Based loosely on the novel RUM PUNCH by Elmore Leonard. The sort isn't a Tarantino original, but he makes it his own and fit into his cinematic world. This film is more plot driven then his other films. Not as much self indulgence. Each character has a reason to be there, just not peripheral. --This is Tarantino's most grown up film at that point in his filmography. Not having or using as many distractions. He shows growth as a writer and director.
Focusing on characters who are in the fantasy versions of their lives. As the harsh reality of life sets in. They slowly dawns that this is their twilight. This is where they will probably be for the rest of their life. The good times are gone. So for Jackie his is really her last chance to escape to some kind of happiness and enjoy her remaining years.
The film goes more for a slow burn throughout.
The film is more of a combination of homage to blaxploitation films and a love letter to lead actress Pam Grier putting a cap and Character to her illustrious career and for inspiring him throughout those films she starred in.
This is the first time since RESEVOIR DOGS it feels like a film set in reality. Where stakes are high and final. Though it still manages to have a light tone at times.
Samuel L. Jackson truly Creates a character of his own. Who starts off as more comedic which is how we are introduced to him. Though as the film goes along becomes scarier and more menacing as his world is threatened. He is a character who always is a big talker and always has a plan. He seems smarter then he actually his. He owns the screen with this role he is funny, confident, smooth yet scary. Malicious with the gift of gab. He's a small time crook who believes he is a kingpin. Who seems to only know his neighborhood. It was his idea to give his character the long hair and the braided goatee.
The film helped Ressurect Robert forester's career and he goes down the middle to deliver a homer in a stoic romantic who only wants to do the right thing. A stand up guy. He isn't a saint, but while attracted to Jackie, is only there to do his job and duty.
Michael Keaton originating a role that would be used again in another film based on Elmore Leonard’s writings the film OUT OF SIGHT. Only here he plays a more intergral point on the film. He also has more depth giving himself space to color In the character a bit.
Bridget Fonda even gives one of her better performances ever as a scheming aging trophy girlfriend.
Robert DeNiro feels wasted, but add prestige to the film sure it's a character actor role, bit surprisingly small for an actor of his nature. When He first got a hold of the script he wanted to play the role of Max Cherry. Tarantino wanted to work with De Niro but had his heart set on Robert Forster as Cherry, so he gave the role of Louis to De Niro.
Louis and Ordell first appeared in the Elmore Leonard novel The Switch. At age 15 Tarantino was arrested for shoplifting this book, his one brush with "real" crime. In The Switch, Louis and Ordell kidnap a millionaire's wife only to discover he doesn't want her back, a plot that was used in RUTHLESS PEOPLE. In the novel's sequel, Rum Punch, Louis and Ordell complain that the movie producers stole their idea (without mentioning the movie by name).
Tarantino's list for Max Cherry was Paul Newman, Gene Hackman, John Saxon and Robert Forster.
Robert Forster didn't even have an agent when Quentin Tarantino handed him the script. Forster had auditioned for the Lawrence Tierney part in Reservoir Dogs so Tarantino had written the part of Max Cherry specifically for him.
Sylvester Stallone originally wanted to play Louis, while John Travolta was the first choice to play Ray Nicollete.
Spike Lee publicly criticized Tarantino for the frequent use of the word "nigger" in the film. Samuel L. Jackson, previously a frequent Lee collaborator, defended Tarantino in the press. Miramax chairman called Lee in an attempt to mediate between him and Tarantino but Lee refused to speak with Tarantino.
The film shows criminals aren't as smart as they believe. At the end of the day it's all about making a living.
I was shocked by a quick sex scene as they are rare in Tarantino's films. Though usually have a bunch of graphic erotic conversations.
I loved the ending that leaves with a question, you know the sad answer to it. What might have been unrequited love. The mystery of what lies ahead. As he film is more about the relationships between the characters and situations more than the action and sparkling dialogue.
I love the soundtrack of the film. One of Tarantino's best. Like a mix-tape of 80's jams with some modern day cuts.
In the first mall scene, Max Cherry is seen exiting a movie theater while the music for the ending credits is playing. This is, in fact, the closing music for the film itself.
The best movie soundtracks allow you to remember the scenes of the film. Make memories that are now stuck in your head. Not like when on the radio and in life it is associated with the moment you first heard it. Now it's programmed, plus it inspires different ideas and visions for yourself. Maybe using it as your personal soundtrack. Which is why most of hem out and about. I listen to music to color in the shades of my life. Make it exciting, give certain moments a theme when it comes to soundtracks. The music let's me re-cut the film and it's moments. My own directors cut.
Grade: A –