October 20, 2011

Jackie Brown: My Favorite Tarantino Film


Ever since its 1997 release, Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown has remained at the top of my rankings of his filmography. While my feelings haven't wavered over the years, I wondered if the choice was a subconscious attempt to be a contrarian. I can't argue strongly against those who place Inglorious Basterds, Pulp Fiction, or either of the Kill Bill films at the top. I've enjoyed all those films, but they lacked that extra touch to make them a personal favorite. I revisited the Blu-ray release of Jackie Brown last week, and it reinforced my feelings that it's Tarantino's finest achievement. It combines the heist film with a love story and subtle offbeat comedy in an effortless manner. Pam Grier and Robert Forster are perfectly cast in the lead roles, and Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Bridget Fonda, and others are excellent in supporting performances.

The success of Jackie Brown also comes from the combination of two inventive genre experts, Tarantino and Elmore Leonard. The story is based on Leonard's book Rum Punch, and it offers a unique mix of the two writers' styles. One of this the director's best moves is the soundtrack, which adds depth and style without ever becoming intrusive. Classic soul tunes like Bobby Womack's "Across 110th Street" and The Delfonics "Didn't I Blow Your Mind This Time" fit perfectly with the overall tone. Leonard writes great characters, with his best on-screen adaptations being Out of Sight, Get Shorty, and the TV series Justified. Tarantino changes the characters but retains their core elements. Check out my PopMatters review for more details on why this charming story remains my favorite Tarantino film.

7 comments:

  1. Funny that I've never heard about this one, I guess it's not as famous as Tarantino's other works... Or maybe I'm just filmically uneducated.
    But if you praise it so much, I think I'll check it out.

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  2. Mette, I'd definitely recommend that you check it out. It's a bit different than most of Tarantino's other films and moves a bit slower, but I'm a big fan. Thanks!

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  3. I can't go this far with you (I'm one of them Pulp/Basterds people), but I'm a huge supporter and defender of this flick. Even had a debate about it with Kai just a couple weeks back, as he places it at the bottom of QT's heap. It probably comes in around 4th place for me, after True Romance (which I count).

    I love nearly everything about it. The Leonard connection is huge, as I'm a sucker for just about every one of his adaptations, including the bad/terrible ones that no one cares about (if they've even heard of them), like The Big Bounce and even Touch. Get Shorty and Out of Sight rank amongst my all-time favorites. Justified is kick-ass, too.

    It all came together on Jackie - another career revival (or two), a killer soundtrack, Sam Jackson doing subdued and badass at the same time, DeNiro definitely playing against type (and being funny as hell while doing very little), and one hell of a lengthy climax. What is it, 40 minutes long?

    Love.

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  4. It's in the middle of the pack for me, definitely after Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, and definitely better than Death Proof. Inglorious Basterds and the Kill Bill movies are somewhere in the middle.

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  5. Chip, I expect your opinion is pretty common, especially putting Pulp Fiction at the top. I can't really argue with it, as nearly all of this movies are strong contenders.

    Dylan, I've read a lot of Leonard's books, but I haven't seen the lower-tier movies like The Big Bounce yet. I'm guessing there are more movies than I know that come from Leonard's work. His stamp is definitely part of what I love about Jackie Brown. I think the climax is at least 40 minutes, if not longer. The way Tarantino shows the different perspectives without overdoing it really worked for me. Your reasons are all right on for why it works so well.

    Thanks!

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  6. I'm with you on this one, favorite QT by far. I think it's his most human and most engaging story. Wish he might consider doing something like it in the future.

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  7. James, I agree that it's the most human story, and that makes it engaging, even on repeat viewings. With his next two movies being Django Unchained and Kill Bill 3, I'm not sure he's heading in that direction, though. Still, I have enjoyed most of his movies.

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