Jackie Brown (1997)
February 8, 2016 6:37 PM - Subscribe

A middle-aged woman finds herself in the middle of a huge conflict that will either make her a profit or cost her life.

AV Club: Probably the last thing anyone expected as Quentin Tarantino's follow up to the moment-defining Pulp Fiction was a low-key, leisurely paced film about aging, gracefully and otherwise. Beneath the intricate and entertaining adapted-from-Elmore Leonard heist plot, however, that's what Jackie Brown is—and it's to Tarantino's credit that he makes the film work on both levels. Blaxploitation icon Pam Grier plays the title character, a middle-aged flight attendant who gets caught smuggling cash and drugs for an arms-dealer acquaintance (Samuel L. Jackson). To avoid serving time, she has to work Jackson and his cohorts (Bridget Fonda, Robert DeNiro) and the law (Michael Keaton) against each other while relying upon the help of a bail bondsman (played by the sweetly winning Robert Forster), who may be falling for her. That B- and C-list actors Grier and Forster both walk away looking like stars is further testament to Tarantino's uncanny ability to cast his movies effectively, but the most exciting thing about Jackie Brown is the director's seamless transition to a less flashy, revealing style; it's well-suited to the more character-oriented focus of the film.

Rogert Ebert: This is the movie that proves Tarantino is the real thing, and not just a two-film wonder boy. It's not a retread of "Reservoir Dogs" or "Pulp Fiction," but a new film in a new style, and it evokes the particular magic of Elmore Leonard--who elevates the crime novel to a form of sociological comedy. There is a scene here that involves the ex-con Louis (Robert De Niro) and Ordell's druggie mistress (Bridget Fonda) discussing a photograph pinned to the wall, and it's so perfectly written, timed and played that I applauded it.

Tarantino has a lot of good scenes in this movie. The scene where one character lures another to his death by tempting him with chicken and waffles. The scene where a nagging woman makes one suggestion too many. The scene where a man comes around in the morning to get back the gun a woman borrowed the night before. The moment when Jackie Brown uses one line of dialogue, perfectly timed, to solve all of her problems.

Rolling Stone
: The glory of the film resides in the unlikely romance between Jackie and Max. He hears music when he first sees her – it's '70s soul, of course. And she introduces him to the Delfonics. "How do you feel about getting old?" Jackie asks Max, who admits he bought a wig when his hair started to fall out. "My ass ain't the same," Jackie grudgingly confesses. "Bigger?" asks Max, smiling. "Nothin' wrong with that."



Robert Forster interview

Tarantino Interview

Grantland Who Won The Scene? Samuel L. Jackson vs. Everyone Else in Jackie Brown

12 Fascinating Facts about Jackie Brown

How Leonard's Jackie Burke became Tarantino's Jackie Brown

Looking Back at Jackie Brown

The Guardian interview with Grier, Tarantino, and Forster

Elmore Leonard discusses Jackie Brown and other movie adaptations
posted by MoonOrb (22 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
For all this film is different than Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction, it still delves into one of Tarantino's favorite techniques - Nonlinear Storytelling. Not to the extent that the previous two did, where he kicks it off In medias res, only to bounce back, forward and sideways through the timeline via flashbacks, but showing the exchange at the mall three times over from each point of view was certainly in the same wheelhouse.

Though when he does jump back on the timeline, he did put a helpful timestamp on the screen to make it explicit what he was doing. When I worked at Blockbuster when this title hit the video shelves, I mentioned that little detail to people who asked me about the movie, and said that he probably did it because he was tired of critics who had complained that the way his last two films jumped around was too confusing. I don't actually know if that was the real reason behind it.
posted by radwolf76 at 6:53 PM on February 8, 2016

A lesbian friend of mine told me to see this movie. "I had no idea Pam Grier was so sexy." I see the film and I'm like, damn, Jill was right.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:17 PM on February 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is such a great movie, with many surprising and perfect little moments.

It's infuriating to me how often I see people discussing Tarantino's oeuvre while weirdly eliding Jackie Brown. It's a thing. That people do. I'm sure I'm oversensitive to it and it's not quite as bad as I think it is, but I'm not imagining it, either.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:38 PM on February 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Forster and Grier are magical in this movie. When he first sees her and Natural High starts playing...
posted by davidmsc at 10:42 PM on February 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

I caught the last half of this movie recently, so I am feeling really appreciative of it. I remember the first half being kind of meadering and unlikeable, but I just want to talk about the last half which is amazing.

I love the little romance between Jackie and Max, the way they figuratively see each other across a crowded room as people of quality, lots of miles but still in good condition.. When I watch the ending I badly want one of them to change their mind and go after the other. I'm also glad it ends looking like Jackie will be off on her own.

Ordell is a kind of fascinating mastermind villain. He's the only other player on Max and Jackie's level, but he can't handle both of them together. When he finally figures out Jackie has double-crossed him (in the great scene with Louis in the van), all the scenes of him going after Jackie and sort tip-toeing right into the trap are so tense and well written and acted.

There's an echo of Ordell's downfall with a murder Ordell commits earlier, and what Jackie does with Nicoletta, where people go along with lies—lies they know in their heart are lies—just because it's just a little too much work to resist.

Nicoletta is kind of subtle and interesting on rewatch. Keaton plays him really well. His jock swagger is off-putting, and he seems kind of gross, but he is also sharp, pushy, and dangerous. He's always kind of mapping between the real world and the world he will portray in his reports. Jackie totally flips him. By the end, he is sort of cooperating with Jackie though sometimes he gets almost mad knowing she's guilt of something, so he'll try to catch her in a lie. She dances out of the way each time and he remembers, oh yeah, she's too good.
posted by nom de poop at 11:16 PM on February 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Really, one of the very best adaptations of Elmore Leonard, along with Get Shorty, and Out of Sight. Manages to keep the jokey masterful looseness and intelligence of the books.

This movie is one reason I keep watching Tarantino movies. I hope he hasn't forgotten this, that he'll go back at least once more, and make a movie like this
posted by From Bklyn at 2:22 AM on February 9, 2016

12 Fascinating Facts about Jackie Brown
13rd fact: Life of crime (2014) is a prequel of sorts for Jackie Brown. It's a less perfect film burdened with a not very satisfying ending, but it features a mellower, slightly melancholic Louis Gara (played by the great John Hawkes), an already villainy Ordell Robbie and it gives Melanie's origin story.
posted by elgilito at 4:11 AM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is my favorite Tarantino movie. Along with Pulp Fiction to some extent, it is one of the only Tarantino films that feels like it has any chill in it whatsoever. Too many of his other films are like "HEY DO YOU LIKE GENRE FLICKS??? HUH?!? HUH?!? HUHUHUHUHUHUHU"

I watched this as a much younger man and had never seen Robert Forster or Pam Grier in anything and was just blown away at the strength and complexity of their shared performance.

And yeah this was another periodic "Michael Keaton is kind of wonderful but we don't see him much, do we?" moments. Along with Branagh's "Much Ado about Nothing" where he gives us a great Beetlejuice variant.
posted by selfnoise at 6:54 AM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

This might be my favorite of his and a lot of that is probably due to the skeleton of Leonard's story underneath. If nothing else, it's one of the few DeNiro performances in the last two decades that's worth your time.
posted by octothorpe at 7:41 AM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I love this movie. The soundtrack and all of the Roy Ayers instrumental interstitials have been part of my regular rotation for well over a decade. It's been years since I've seen it...definitely due for a re-watch.
posted by phunniemee at 8:14 AM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

This might be my favorite of his and a lot of that is probably due to the skeleton of Leonard's story underneath. If nothing else, it's one of the few DeNiro performances in the last two decades that's worth your time.

It's also a perfect meta-commentary on his entire career.

"What the fuck happened to you, man? Shit, your ass used to be beautiful."
posted by dng at 9:52 AM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

I love this movie so much. And it retroactively makes me sad about the rest of Tarantino's output, especially post-KB. You're capable of depth, dude, so try adding some to your movies eh.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:15 AM on February 9, 2016

I've had many long arguments as to why this might be Tarantino's best film. I've always liked it's French New Wave feel, which might explain why some people skip it all together. It's subtle and not an assault to the senses. I feel like some of Tarantino movies are just one or two great scenes (and I mean really great) and that's it. JB uses and builds on all it's great scenes, all the way till the end of the movie, and has one of the sweetest and best ends to a film ever.
posted by abigailKim at 11:21 AM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

I have long said this is Tarantino's best film.
posted by vibrotronica at 11:33 AM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

This is the last Tarantino film I enjoyed watching AND thought was great.

I went by myself to see it in my hometown when it opened. I was the only white person in the completely-packed theater. It was a revelatory experience on so many levels.
posted by infinitewindow at 2:35 PM on February 9, 2016

I remember being frustrated when Robert Forester was nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actor but Pam Grier didn't get a nod. Her acting in Jackie Brown was incredible.
posted by batbat at 2:46 PM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

It's the only Tarantino I like.
posted by brujita at 6:51 PM on February 9, 2016

Count me amongst those who think this is Tarantino's best film.
posted by homunculus at 7:33 PM on February 9, 2016

Everything from Kill Bill onward has been for me somewhat underwhelming. That's not the best word, because all of those films have aspects that are the very opposite of "underwhelming". All the post-KB films (inclusive) I think I respond to intellectually, mostly, with some admiration but never love. Generally, I defend Tarantino because I think he's extremely talented and I find what he's doing to be interesting and valuable. But I suppose that I agree with many people in this thread that the Jackie Brown Tarantino is the version of him as a filmmaker that I would have preferred over what he has become. Because there's a lot I genuinely love about JB, it's not as enamoured of itself as an exercise in cinema even though it very much is, as all his films are.

Personally, I've always been ambivalent, have had a love/hate relationship with art that calls attention to its own artfullness. I've been passionate in the past about Peter Greenaway, particularly Drowning by Numbers, but I've also sort of hated his movies, too. In the end, the artists I most admire are the ones who can achieve the same structural and critical ends without me feeling as if the artist is standing over my shoulder asking me if I've impressed with how clever they are. So, to me, Jackie Brown is more successful and more admirable because Tarantino is still doing many of the things that he does, but it's understated and he's not demanding my attention and affection as a filmmaker. I sometimes feel the same way about the Coens, too, (usually, but not always) preferring their films that resist turning the knob up to eleven.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:57 AM on February 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

it's not as enamoured of itself as an exercise in cinema

Oh that's perfect. Mind you, I'm more-or-less OK with the rest of QT's oeuvre being exercises in cinema, but this one cements his reputation as a great.
posted by whuppy at 7:09 AM on February 10, 2016

In another universe this is, may be, not as big, but in the same goddamn ballpark as, Pulp Fiction and it gives QT the confidence to go on to be not just a good, possibly even great director, but one of the fucking gods making increasingly mature and complex films.

But not in this one, where he lost confidence and fell back into his pulp / genre cocoon. Yeah, you could have been beautiful man.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:37 PM on February 11, 2016

I just watched this for the first time tonight and absolutely loved it. I probably won't see any new QT movies (Django did me in - I wish I hadn't seen it), but I'm sure I'll watch this again.
posted by minsies at 1:59 PM on February 12, 2016

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