The Essentials- #7
True Romance (1993)
Its pretty safe to say that Quentin Tarantino is one of my favorite filmmakers, easily my favorite working today. He has smart, clever characters, he writes the coolest scripts with apparent ease, and his movies take us on journeys we never thought we'd encounter. He's not just a great filmmaker, but he is a God of film-making. It is very clear in his work that he was born to make movies.
One of his earliest offerings he didn't direct, but he did write a very juicy, exciting script. The late Tony Scott directed "True Romance." If you look at the title, your half right on what it's about. Yes, its a love story, yes there are mushy-gushy romantic one-liners in it. But trust me, its all part of the fun. If you are a Tarantino fan, you know that his movies are never what they seem, same is true with this story.
When the film begins, we meet Clarence Worley (Christian Slater in his career-best performance.) Clarence is an average schmo. He works at a comics shop, he loves movies, music, Cadillac's, pie and kung fu. At the beginning of a movie we hear him talking in great depth about his idol and favorite musician, Elvis Presley. He is at a bar, talking to a woman. The audience will be able to tell right away that the girl is at least interested in Clarence. Once he invites her to see a kung-fu triple feature, her interests fades completely, so he goes by himself.
At the triple feature, Clarence meets a pretty girl named Alabama (Patricia Arquette) they hit it off right away after Alabama spills popcorn all over Clarence. They hang out all night, which leads to them sleeping together, which leads to Alabama's secret. Alabama is a call girl hired by Clarence's boss to show him a good time. Alabama had a troubled time admitting this to Clarence after having such a great time with him the night before. All of this leads them to falling in love and getting married.
This is easier said than done, as Alabama has a pimp named Drexel (brought to life by Gary Oldman, one of the weirdest, yet awesome roles of his career.) Sensing danger, Clarence hatches a plan to kill Drexel so he doesn't come after his newly wedded wife. The stand-off between Clarence and Drexel is by far one of the most tense sequences in all of movies. I have to breathe into a brown bag to calm down after every viewing. If you see this film for one purpose it should be to witness this sequence. I get goosebumps just thinking about it!
After a brutal stand-off, Clarence comes home with a suitcase of Alabama's stuff, which turns out to be a case full of drugs. Clarence and Alabama hit the road to sell the drugs, while cops and gangsters alike are after them.
What makes "True Romance" work so well is how the movie shifts through genres. There are moments where Clarence and Alabama are so believably love struck that they'll make you swoon. There are also moments of very tense drama. Not only is the scene with Clarence and Drexel tense, but so is a scene where Detroit's mafia Don (Christopher Walken) meets with Clarence's father, (Dennis Hopper) demanding he tell him where Clarence is headed. The film is also very funny, there is a character our star-crossed lovers meet on their travels named Floyd. Floyd is played by Brad Pitt and boy, you have never seen Pitt like this before. Pitt plays a laid back pothead and I guarantee that every scene featuring Floyd will make you laugh out-loud. Pitt is a really accomplished actor, with many highlights in his career. But I think Floyd is one of his finest moments.
The reason why the romance, the drama, and the comedy all work is because Tarantino and Scott have put together a fine cast which makes us believe in their characters. All actors are at the top of their game here so the audience goes along with the story. The film also features Val Kilmer, Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Penn, James Gandolfini and Tom Sizemore. All actors bring their characters to life in outstanding ways, and they deserve credit for their work.
On paper, I am sure "True Romance" seems like it would be a bloated mess. I bet that in the hands of a another writer and director it would have been. Tarantino and Scott are too gifted of filmmakers to make a bad movie. They both did a really good job getting this movie on its feet. The work by Slater and Arquette is exquisite. It will really surprise you how incredibly emotional the romantic beats will feel to you. With so many genres blurred together, there is something for everyone in "True Romance."