A Different Love Story
We all recognize Quentin Tarantino. The majority of his films are random and violent. To better paraphrase this, Tarantino is synonymous with unpredictability. To even better distinguish his films, we need to draw up a checklist of stuff: violence (as mentioned), macabre humour, incredible dialogue, lanky wit, pop culture, and enough profanity to make a parent cringe. Of course, it is dangerous to live in such a world, but the benefit of starring in it means garnering a fandom, seeing that Mia Wallace is the front cover of literally every Pulp Fiction poster, or that Beatrix “The Bride” Kiddo revels under the intrigue of Kill Bill. Naturally, a Tarantino fan would be eagerly awaiting new works, just like children used to await the latest Harry Potter film every year.
True Romance is a strange film that can be a bit hard to define. At a stretch, it would be considered a romantic action piece, which is definitely not something we hear of often. The film brings a type of romance to the screen that has not been seen anywhere else. There is a top-notch cast that hosts this film with each side character being incredibly memorable. Despite the dysfunctional nature of Clarence and Alabama’s love, the characters and their passion for each other is inspiring. The flaws of the people in this film overwhelmed their other features, except for Clarence and Alabama, who pull each other past those flaws. After repeated viewings, we can hopefully tell that True Romance stands out from the crowd.
Did I mention that Tarantino puts a lot of emphasis on all his characters? The side characters are spectacularly well-defined, from Dexter to Marty, exhibiting flaws and traits well beyond what we might expect out of a traditional side character. Each one stands out as being uniquely set in their ways, whatever that many be, from a snivelling assistant to the straight shooting gangster. Each individual has an easily definable role, yet without exception, everyone we meet in this world is unhappy. The director hates the mediocrity of his positions, the cops hate the low level of their positions, the gangsters are unsatisfied with the amount of money and drugs they’re bringing in. Even Floyd, stoned 24/7 on the couch is upset with the way others receive him. Literally everyone is unhappy with the positions they maintain, no matter how rich, poor, or badass they may be. In fact, the only time people show any hint of genuine happiness is when they interact with Clarence and Alabama. Multiple characters who have every reason to hate them, state that they like the two. Perhaps this is why the film opens in Detroit, since it is such a dark and desolate city and that the backdrop sets the tone of an unhappy world we see surrounding our main characters. True Romance tries very hard to show us how grim everything is, right down to the very infrastructure that makes it up.
The core of the film is reserved to Clarence and Alabama, anyone can tell you this. Both of them are dysfunctional, probably downright insane. We are introduced to Clarence talking about how he would have sex with Elvis Presley, which we later discover is a rehearsed speech that he literally spouts off to every girl he meets. There is no clue as to why the obsession with Elvis, but it’s just there. His instability is further consolidated by his intense violent outbursts. Alabama is no different. Her work as a call girl means that she at least has some self-esteem issues, but beyond that, the way she reacts to violence is just as batshit crazy as Clarence. The knee-jerk reaction of making out with him after he kills her pimp is bad, as far as mental health is concerned. Although Alabama is the person narrating, there isn’t much of a backstory to her, sort of like Red from Shawshank Redemption. Long story, these two are not sane individuals.
While nobody can rival their levels of craziness, the couple is visibly the happiest. Their courtship only takes one day of real time, or around 15 minutes of onscreen make-outs to marriage. Sure, they end up leaving a pile of bodies in their wake, but besides Drexler, none of that was really intentional. Everything these two do is to keep together.
True Romance is, at its core, a story of the power of love and it is rather charming. Both of these insane people are doomed like the rest of the cast, if they stay alone. Without one another, they would’ve had to experience all the heartache of the world alone. By banding together, they managed to pull themselves out of this environment and find a happiness that may not be conventional, though it is genuine. Neither of them ever questioned the love they have for each other. It isn’t the sort of film where boy meets girl and they break up, then make up, then happily ever after. No, they love each other and they stick to it. Love allows them to triumph over a lot in this world. Neither of them have any idea what they’re doing for the entire duration of the film, but unwavering love and faith in each other pushes them through each difficult situation. In a way, they embody the concept of love in its purest form. By choosing to use two broken characters, Tarantino can show what love is at its best. He shows us what love can do at the peak of its powers. Love can mend a broken mind, raise someone to new heights, and give someone a second chance. It isn’t important that we condone the relationship. In fact, I doubt any rational person would. It’s obviously crazy. Whether we approve of their romance, by the end of the film, they grow beyond what they started off as, and gained a happiness together that otherwise would’ve been unattainable. Frankly, this is a far more interesting take on love and the power of it than any rom-com Hollywood can throw at us.
The name Quentin Tarantino strikes an impression to all who hear it. In cinema, he is known for his intense, unapologetically violent thrillers. To say that True Romance is his best work to date would be an exaggeration. However, the director has an uncanny way of making his characters and films stick to the audience’s memories, like gum to shoe. And like its predecessor, Reservoir Dogs, True Romance can count on its drollness, not to mention bullet mayhem, to rouse its target audience. There is energy and rhythm to each sequence, sprinkling the slower moments with one-liners, sadly burdened by the fact that Tarantino was not actually the director, but rather the scriptwriter. Despite Tony Scott’s lethargic directing, True Romance can still be regarded as a visceral roller coaster.