How does one review a 21-year-old movie that has received massive critical acclaim and become legendary in pop culture? Well, I almost didn’t – the task just seemed too intimidating. Some people in my life would say that I haven’t seen anything…so I started to make a list of movies I needed to see. Pulp Fiction was right on top of that list. I guess it’s a bit late for me to start fawning over the masterpiece, but what the hell? So, here goes.
In the seven chapters of his opus, Quentin Tarantino tells three different storylines that connect the many key characters. The film opens on a diner scene, where we meet “Honey Bunny” (Amanda Plummer) and “Pumpkin” (Tim Roth). The two lovebirds sit talking over a meal; they decide to rob the diner. Just as they initiate the robbery, the scene cuts out, and the credits roll. The next characters we meet are Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L Jackson); we find these two retrieving their boss’s stolen briefcase, and executing the thieves. After this scene, boxer Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) is seen making a deal with Marsellus (Ving Rhames), the latter being Vega’s and Winnfield’s boss, and the deal being for Coolidge to take a hit in his next match. Enter the femme fatale: Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman), the wife of Marsellus. Her role in the transpiring events is seemingly simple: Vega is to escort her while her husband is out of town. With all of these scenarios in place, Tarantino makes rubber burn.
Tarantino is known for his non-linear story-telling, his love for violence, and his remarkable characters. Pulp Fiction is the epitome of Tarantino-esque for each of these traits. The way the story jumps around is both intriguing and dizzying. The opening diner scene is completely disconnected from the movie until it is revisited at the epilogue. Throughout the seemingly unrelated events, I found myself every so often wondering…where are the characters from the beginning? Tarantino loves to keep the audience hanging on one scene right as he’s jumping to a different storyline. When the question on the audience’s mind is finally answered, the movie has come full circle; the loose ends are tied up. A sigh of relief is breathed.
The graphic subject matter and visuals in the movie are both terrifying and captivating. Although there is no nudity, and sometimes no literal showing of violence, Tarantino expertly crafts the graphic images in his audience’s mind through what he doesn’t show. (Not to say that he doesn’t show anything…I promise you that there are plenty of images that you don’t want your children to see.) Pulp Fiction contains whispers of betrayal and murder, suggestions of adultery, lots of drugs and guns, and blatant sexual atrocities. These whispers and suggestions, on top of what is shown, cause the movie to fulfill the audience’s need for a thrill.
There are no purely “good” or “bad” characters in this story; everybody has a darkness and light to them, and only some come out on top at the close. The casting was nearly perfect for this movie. The two thespians that most caught my attention were Jackson and Thurman. Jackson simply became his character; he was able to scare the shit out of me as a cold-hearted killer, then would amuse me with his god-fearing manners. Thurman played Vega’s coy temptress to perfection. Although compared to the other main characters her role in the movie was small, she absolutely made the most of it. Thurman was even able to maintain her sex appeal with her makeup smudged, eyes puffy, and hair stringy (It’s impossible to explain further without giving serious spoilers!). The entire cast was outstanding, but Thurman and Jackson definitely deserve special recognition.
Tarantino includes many complex motifs and some serious symbolism; if you’ve already seen the film I’m sure you know what I’m referencing. If you haven’t, do yourself a favor and go for it. Many people have called this movie an homage to Hollywood and cinema, with all of its cultural references. There is something for everyone in this – comedy, thrills, and mystery. Pulp Fiction will sure hold its number 5 spot on IMDb’s top 250 movies for a very long time.