Saturday, February 26, 2011

Jackie Brown

My return to watching movies on my "ought to watch" list marks the last of the Tarantino movies. (I know there's also Kill Bill and Grindhouse and maybe others, but this is the last one on my list.)

The best thing the movie had going for it, to me, was suspense. Most of the movie is the playing out of one big scheme in which various people are playing each other, but for the entire movie, you really can't tell what everyone's game is. Every time you are fairly sure you can see what the plan is, it turns out that that doesn't quite add up, and maybe there's more; or something contradicts it. When you think they actually pulled something off, it turns out they don't take the money and run, but there's more to the plan. It kept me interested and eager to see the next scene, but in the end, it felt like it didn't add up to that much. The climax felt anticlimactic.

Another element of suspense was simply who's going to turn out to be important to the movie? Who's going to get killed off? In this, I had the advantage of not knowing who was on the posters; I also didn't recognize Bridget Fonda so I wasn't sure if her character would be minor. From the first appearances of some of the characters I was wondering who was getting killed off -- and I was wrong as often as I was right.

The story is in a lot of ways the most linear and straightforward of Tarantino's movies (at least the ones I saw). This shouldn't be taken as either praise or disparagement: it suits the story, since it doesn't need any other technique to build its suspense. There's enough just from never knowing quite what anyone else is actually planning.

In all, I have to say I didn't like it as much as Inglorious Basterds. However, I'm harder pressed to rank which ones I think are better-made movies. Though I wasn't that fond of it, I think Reservoir Dogs would probably have to win as the best-made of his movies I've seen, but it's a close thing; there are more than a few things in Reservoir Dogs that are a bit clumsy, and the movie on the whole is a bit uneven, but when it's being brilliant, it's being really brilliant. Jackie Brown is more consistent and there's very little in it that makes me think 'that could have been done better,' but it also fails to be as jolting or original, and in the end, it just doesn't rise up quite as far.

Jackie Brown also felt slow at times. When I stop and think about it, most of Tarantino's movies are kind of slow, at least if you count "how many things happen in the course of the movie" (with Inglorious Basterds a notable exception), but in Reservoir Dogs -- and even in Pulp Fiction, my least favorite -- it doesn't seem slow, it never feels like it's dragging. But there were a few times in Jackie Brown where a long quiet scene went past the point of "setting a mood" and into "hey, do we really need all this?" I don't mean he could be cutting them into frenetic Michael Bay flickerfests, but it's possible to go too far the other way.

I wouldn't say it was fun. "Fun" doesn't feel like what Tarantino is going for (though again Inglorious Basterds is often the exception). But it was definitely engaging. In all, I didn't mind it, but I probably won't feel I need to see it again.

No comments: