Robert Forster and Pam Grier in “Jackie Brown” (1997) scr/dir Quentin Tarantino

“Jackie Brown” was quite a shock for Tarantino fans when it came out in 1997. It shared some of the characteristics of his prior films (rat-a-tat dialogue, dark humor), but was much more subdued. The violence wasn’t as grisly and the focus was more on the characters. Because it didn’t explode off the screen like “Pulp Fiction,” many people didn’t like it. However, I think it’s one of Tarantino’s best films.

The biggest strength was the interplay between Pam Grier’s Jackie Brown and Robert Forster’s Max Cherry characters. The way these two characters flirt and grow fond of each other is remarkable and it plays out quite nicely. Most films would have these characters make their flirtation more obvious or play up the comedy more. But Tarantino has these characters circle each other a bit. It’s obvious there’s an attraction, but Jackie and Max are middle-aged, have had some many ups and downs in their lives, and are thrown together by Jackie’s arrest and Max’s role in helping bail her out as her bail bondsman. They’re interested in each other, but are cautious … without either one tipping their hat too much in either direction. It’s too bad this scene cuts out so soon. Especially because this is the best use of the Delfonics’ “Didn’t I Blow Your Mind” I’ve seen in any idiom.

It’s one of the best portrayals of a relationship “of a certain age” ever put on film. Though … it doesn’t quite work out the way moviegoers would necessarily want. The book it was based on (Elmore Leonard’s “Rum Punch”) had Jackie and Max running off together. However, Tarantino’s denouement takes a different direction. The denouement may not be satisfying because we like the characters a lot … but probably more truthful given Jackie’s and Max’s life experience.

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