Wednesday, March 27, 2013

She's the Cherry on Top – Boo-yah!

Everyone loves a comeback. And for a 70's icon of blaxploitation films, that comeback couldn't have come any sweeter or better than it does in the hand's of director Quentin Tarantino's third feature film. Coming off the massive critical and cultural success that was Pulp Fiction (a film that also started a career-resurgence of another 70's star, John Trovalta. You know, before we realized how creepy he actually is...) it seemed that Tarantino could do no wrong. And how did he choose to follow up the in-your-face, jumbled-storytelling of that film? With something decidedly more mature. A complex, yet streamlined, story. And a love letter to one of his favorite actresses of all time: Pam Grier.

The font is actually the same font as Foxy Brown
In honor of QT's 50th birthday this week, Jackie Brown is the subject of this week's Hit Me With Your Best Shot over at The Film Experience. I haven't seen the film since it's initial theatrical release back in 1997. I was in high school at the time and just beginning my education and appreciation of cinema. Back then, I wasn't familiar with who Pam Grier was. I just remember that my B-movie-loving dad was excited that she was in a film again. Luckily, Tarantino, who in many ways is a film preservationist with his homages to film's past, was the perfect person to introduce me –and a new generation–to the star of such awesomely named films as Coffy, Scream Blacula Scream, and Sheba, Baby.

Tarantino wrote the part especially for Grier. It was based on an Elmore Leonard book called Rum Punch, but Quentin changed the race of the main character and changed her last name from Burke to Brown in honor of one of Grier's most iconic films, Foxy Brown. The director even had Pam Grier's posters up in his office when she came in to read.

The obvious love and admiration that he has for his star is evident in every shot of her. It's Tarantino's goal to make the audience fall in love with her. And much like Robert Forester's bail bondsman, Max Cherry, we're hooked from the very moment we set eyes on her.

Quentin is constantly shooting Pam Grier in profile in the film.

With her mane of hair, eyelids heavy with lashes, and majestic nose cutting a regal pose, she calls to mind a lioness on the planes of Africa or the famous bust of Nefertiti – a woman who certainly knew how to cut a royal profile.

But, for me, the image that I'll forever associate with Pam Grier and Jackie Brown occurs when she shows up at the apartment of Melanie (played by Bridget Fonda. By the way, where has she been? Can we get Quentin to start working on her comeback vehicle?!?). After a super-cut of Jackie's red talons she pops into frame to make herself known:

 wait for it...

I remember it from the trailer and it's forever engrained in my mind when I think about this film. She's effortlessly cool with her sunglasses and the way she says her name. It's just one of those moments were I felt I was seeing a star. True, she had been a star for over 20 years before, but this was my introduction to her. And it's all thanks to Quentin Tarantino.


  1. Excellent choice. That was quick moment that stood out for me too. She gave so much attitude and sass.

    1. thanks! i can't say the title of the film without saying it just like she does in that part. hopefully with as much attitude...