Filling the Gaps: Jackie Brown

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Welcome back to Filling the Gaps, our little series on films we should have seen, but somehow missed.

Tarantino fans treat Jackie Brown as the ugly little stepsister in his oeuvre, and critics seem to ignore it altogether, even though it's Tarantino's most effective homage to the art of filmmaking. One can assume it's ignored because it's the least "Tarantino-esque" of his films; you've got the wit, you've got the experimental story telling, you've got the references to genre b-films, but it's more of a human story.

The story's framed as a simple heist, but the gangster elements merely provide a skeleton for Tarantino to hang a much more complicated story about unrequited love, loyalty, and the tension between love, greed and fear.

Emotions are important. The characters who make it through the film have the good sense to either love Jackie or fear Ordell, and often both. The "fearless" characters end up with bullets in their brains; Louis, with his post-prison haze, Melanie, with her failure to connect with the real world, Ordell, with his general sense that nothing in the world actually affects him.

Tarantino sets the story up as a delicate conflict between three teams: Louis, Ordell and his concumbines, the ATF agents, and Jackie and Max (the bail bondsman played to perfection by Robert Forster).

Much of the rising action in the film comes from the steady disintegration of these partnerships. In each case, Tarantino provides us with moments of hope that he brutally strips away, most tragically with Jackie and Max.

You can't create this kind of story without a powerhouse acting talent, and the cast meets the challenge. So much of the film is conveyed through fleeting expressions; blink, and you'll miss important character moments.

Even if you haven't seen the run of seventies' films that made Pam Grier a star (I haven't), Jackie Brown provides a perfect showcase for why she's idolized by so many. Robert de Niro plays completely against type as an inept dumbass who sleepwalks through the world until anger breaks him free. Samuel L. Jackson steals the show with a surprisingly restrained performance.

Have you seen Jackie Brown? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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5 Responses to “ Filling the Gaps: Jackie Brown ”

  1.  The lack of love that Jackie Brown gets is criminal. Tarantino's direction is accomplished without being showy, the story is classically simple with it's focus on the emotional cost of actions, and the performances create the most well-rounded characters in any Tarantino film. They feel like real people, as opposed to the sort of pop-culture icons of his other films. Perhaps the slightly frosty reception for Jackie Brown is why he swung so far back in the other direction with Kill Bill?

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  2. Wellyousaythat21 July 2012 14:22

    Jacki Brown; the Tarantion movie that real Tarantino fans love as you do a neglected child

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  3. I feel like people have come around on Jackie Brown by now, haven't they? It was definitely received coolly when it first came out but I hear from a lot of people who love it now. It was immediately my favorite film of his and has remained so since it came out. So I was ahead of the curve!

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  4. theoncominghope24 July 2012 08:32

     Haha yes you are ahead of the curve! To be honest, the fact that people don't even mention Jackie Brown when discussing Tarantino is indicative of its place in people's minds. A lot of people are coming around to it now, but those are still people who've actually seen it, not people who are discovering it anew.

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  5. theoncominghope24 July 2012 08:33

     That's an interesting point. If you think about Tarantino as an artist who works in homage, I think Jackie Brown is an homage to the books he grew up loving. Kill Bill is an homage to films he grew up loving.

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