In memory of Robert Forster, let’s see his only Oscar nomination.
Robert Forster sadly passed away the other day, and I know the only Oscar-nomination he’s received was for his role in Quentin Tarantino’s 1997 movie “Jackie Brown.” He portrays a bail bondsman named Max Cherry, who falls for the title heroine, played iconically and stylishly by Pam Grier. One has gotten tired of the same old job, and the other is trying to keep her flight attendant job. These two have chemistry here.
“Jackie Brown” uses its words wisely, and keeps the main characters at their own pace. Another crime flick set in Los Angeles, you’re looking at this film with commitment and patience, and admire the characters for their own ambitions.
Based on Elmore Leonard’s novel “Rum Punch,” the story begins with arms dealer Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson) killing one of his employees (Chris Tucker) for violating his probation, which could not only land him 10 years in prison, but also make him a snitch in Ordell’s game. The only person he admits his murdering to is his former cellmate buddy Louis (Robert De Niro).
In Jackie Brown’s side of the story, she gets interrogated by two detectives (Michael Keaton and Michael Bowen) for smuggling cash, and because someone stashed a bag of cocaine in her purse, she lands back in prison.
Ordell plans to make Jackie another victim of his, but she turns the tables on him, and she makes a deal with him. They have to smuggle the money from his spot in Mexico, while pretending to help the main detectives with their case. And Max ends up in the middle of the game.
What Tarantino does best about his movies (“Pulp Fiction” and more recently, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”) is give his characters philosophical and poetic dialogue. “Jackie Brown” allows the actors and actresses to use their words wisely, giving them a sense of style. Grier, Jackson, Forster, Keaton, Tucker, Bridget Fonda (as a pothead surfer), and De Niro are all perfect in this particular genre. What a cast!
The music also applies to Tarantino’s tastes, because of how disco music is able to survive in the ’90s without being overshadowed by the next generation. You get classic hits from The Supremes, Roy Ayers, Bobby Womack, and Bill Withers, among others; and at times, it feels like you’re watching a blaxploitation film from the ’70s. Only it isn’t so negative or political.
When we’re thinking about Robert Forster, we should remember his other roles in films like “Medium Cool, “The Descendants,” and even his final performance in “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie.” It’s refreshing to look back at the only role he’s been given an Oscar nomination for.
Because of mesmerizing qualities “Jackie Brown” possesses, it ranks with Tarantino’s masterworks.