Happy Birthday to Quentin Tarantino, who is 54 today. I figured this would be a good time to finally review my 2017 Blind Spot choice of Jackie Brown. And tomorrow I’ll be reviewing The Hateful Eight, which I’ve finally just watched as well. At least I liked one of these two movies! Here’s my review for Jackie Brown…
Jackie Brown (1997)
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Based on Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard
Starring: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton, Robert De Niro
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A middle-aged woman finds herself in the middle of a huge conflict that will either make her a profit or cost her life.
I can’t believe it took me so long to get around to finally watching Jackie Brown, the only Tarantino-directed film I’d never watched (okay – not counting that Four Rooms movie or his guest director credit on Sin City, which isn’t a movie that I liked anyway).
Jackie Brown is an odd one in that I’m of course used to Tarantino’s style now & this one has a very different feel to it. I suppose the main reason for this is that the film is an adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s 1992 novel Rum Punch instead of a Tarantino original story like his other films. I think this works in the film’s favor but I’d also hazard a guess that it isn’t the number one favorite film for most diehard Tarantino fans.
I’ll be honest – I think someone needs to rein Tarantino in a bit. Not long after watching Jackie Brown I watched the overblown The Hateful Eight and it definitely made me appreciate Brown much more. At first, I wasn’t sure what to think of Jackie Brown. It’s a good but uneven film and, although I confess that I know nothing about the book and have never read anything by Elmore Leonard in my life, it feels pretty obvious which bits were probably embellished by Tarantino. There’s a welcome subtlety to parts of Jackie Brown that’s especially missing in Tarantino’s most current films. Don’t get me wrong – I like his movies and know they’re going to be over the top (Kill Bill being my favorite, which is OTT to the extreme, but in a good way). But…. What am I trying to say? I don’t know. I think Tarantino is just another director who has come to believe his own hype a bit too much & he needs to take a step back and focus on the great writing that made his older films like Reservoir Dogs such a success. Okay – I’m focusing too much on not liking The Hateful Eight. More about that one tomorrow but I can’t help but compare since I watched these two almost back to back & they’re so very different.
I loved the overall mood of Jackie Brown, which was of course helped once again by the use of a truly fantastic soundtrack. If there’s one thing that Tarantino always does right, it’s picking the music for his films. I loved this soundtrack so much. Best music (as in, songs as opposed to score) that I’ve heard in a film in a long time! Remember when movie soundtracks used to be good like this?? Sorry to go on about this so much but it’s not something that is done as well in films nowadays. When I think back to my teen years, I bought loads of movie (song) soundtracks. There were so many good ones then. What the hell happened? The music in a movie is very important to me as I think it plays such an integral part in creating a film’s mood. I keep saying “song” to differentiate as I’m actually more of a lover of original film scores than of “song” soundtracks usually but, when a movie puts together a lot of previously recorded music as perfectly as Jackie Brown does, it makes me happy. Hey – at least I have to give credit to Tarantino for getting Ennio Morricone to score The Hateful Eight. I worship people like Morricone & John Williams the way that most people worship the pretty celebrities who are in front of the cameras. Maybe I’m weird?! And, shit – I’m talking about The Hateful Eight again. Sorry.
As I said, there’s a subtlety to parts of Jackie Brown unlike in Tarantino’s more recent works and it’s these understated scenes that were easily my favorite bits of this movie. Pam Grier & Robert Forster were brilliant and I was happiest when the movie went back to the scenes involving their characters. Loved their chemistry! I totally wanted a love story there (if you’ve not seen it, I won’t say if this happens or not).
There are bigger name stars in this one (Robert De Niro and, of course, Samuel L. Jackson) but the scenes involving them were the ones that I felt had a little too much of that “Tarantino vibe” going on. Who the hell doesn’t love Samuel L. Jackson, right? He’s awesome. But he’s his usual “Tarantino-self” in this and, for once, I enjoyed having those Grier & Forster scenes involving more than just Tarantino/Jackson sweary banter and extreme violence.
Speaking of extreme violence, this is the least violent Tarantino movie (well, maybe that Four Rooms thing isn’t violent?). I think it’s the first of his films that I was able to watch with my eyes fully open the entire time! I mean, it’s of course plenty violent but it’s not explicitly shown. I’m a wuss. I prefer to not see full-on gore. Yet Kill Bill is my favorite so I suppose that makes no sense… Eh, I just love a good revenge story (and women who kick ass). And I have yet to watch all of Kill Bill with my eyes fully open. I guess, looking at it that way, Jackie Brown is the first & only Tarantino movie that I’ve actually seen. 😉 And I appreciated that.
Perhaps Tarantino should try adapting someone else’s work again sometime. I do like his style and I didn’t mind Jackie Brown having that Tarantino stamp on it but I also liked the way in which adapting someone else’s work meant he kind of managed to keep the story more on track & to not go so medieval on our asses. Again, I think Jackie Brown is also unfortunately somewhat uneven because of this and it’s certainly not a perfect film but I do think it’s better than several of Tarantino’s other films (yet I don’t think it’s widely accepted as so?). I did a post a very long time ago ranking the Tarantino films I’ve seen, which I’ve finally updated HERE. Have a look if you really want to see where I’ve placed Jackie Brown (although you can probably guess where The Hateful Eight ranks!).
Jackie Brown is a good film. It probably deserves more credit than it gets and I’m glad to have added it to my Blind Spot list as it was well worth finally watching. Grier & Forster are the true stars who make this film and it’s unfortunate that they’re somewhat overshadowed by “more famous” names being in the movie as well. I have a confession: I seriously don’t know Robert Forster. I know his face but never could have told you his name and had to look him up after watching this. He’s been in 177 things!!! And I watch loads of movies & know my actors. Is he one of these actors who flies under the radar & won’t get any proper recognition until he’s gone? Or have I just seriously overlooked him for years? He’s so damn good in this & I’m happy to see that he got an Oscar nomination for this role. But… Where the f*^k is Pam Grier’s nomination?!? What the f*^k, you m*^herf*^king Academy?!? I’m going to go Samuel L. Jackson on your asses! She’s great. She’s super sexy at fortysomething. I want her & Forster’s characters to live happily ever after (maybe they do? I’m not saying). I’m going to go listen to that Delfonics song now…
My Rating: 8/10
Didn’t I Blow Your Mind This Time – The Delfonics:
And here’s the opening of Jackie Brown, with Bobby Womack’s Across 110th Street. God I love this soundtrack. Can I just post YouTube videos of the whole soundtrack??:
Who Is He (And What Is He To You?) – Bill Withers:
And this one is bizarre. I like it! Good job, Tarantino. I’ll stop posting videos now. I need to buy this soundtrack… The Lions And The Cucumber – The Vampire Sound Incorporation:
Wait. Gotta end with Pam Grier! Long Time Woman – Pam Grier:
Shit. I didn’t post Strawberry Letter 23. Or Street Life… (This is a good soundtrack. Watch the movie. Listen to the songs). 🙂