← Back to Reviews

True Romance

True Romance, 1993

Clarence (Christian Slater) meets call girl Alabama (Patricia Arquette) and the two quickly hit it off. When Clarence goes to retrieve Alabama's things from her pimp, he accidentally ends up with a suitcase full of drugs. A lot of drugs. Making their way to Los Angeles to sell the drugs and get a fresh start, Clarence and Alabama don't realize that they've gotten themselves tangled up with the mob.

I saw this film years ago, and my vague memory was not loving it a ton. This time around my reaction was kind of the same.

The best element of the movie is the cast. This thing is so chock-full of recognizable faces it's ridiculous. Even more so when you realize that some of them are there for like a minute and a half of screen time. And a lot of these actors are people I love seeing pop up in a film, like Conchata Ferrell or Saul Rubinek.

Largely, though, this is a film that doesn't work for me, and that's largely down to how I feel about the main characters. Specifically, they are the worst.

I know that a movie doesn't have to be full of likeable characters to be great, but the film clearly wants us to root for Clarence and Alabama, but I just couldn't get there. Clarence is such a tool. He is careless and thoughtless and full of bravado in a way that just leaves me feeling frustrated and annoyed. He gets a lot of people hurt or killed, some of them innocent. And Alabama, seeing this all as "romantic" and shrugging her way through all the death and destruction equally rubs me the wrong way.

I understand that many people like Tarantino as a writer, but every word he puts on the page sounds so utterly contrived to my ear. Now, some of the actors manage to really harness the cadence of it or sell it through sheer presence. Walken's delivery of "You got me in a vendetta kind of mood" is amazing. But everything that lands is followed by something that just kills the moments. The "vendetta" line is great. So why is it followed by "Go tell all the angels in heaven . . . blah blah blah"? Excess doesn't work when there's no variation--no stillness or relief from it. The only time that the film reached an enjoyable level of excess for me was in the absurdly bloody final shootout.

What really makes this film hard for me is that all of the characters seem to be operating on the same frequency. There's no normalcy. And the weird result of that is that the film feels one-note and monotone. There's also a weird fetishization of "cool stuff", most glaringly the fact that everyone in this reality is obsessed with Elvis, to the point that his friend shows up wearing an Elvis shirt. There's a sense of straining for iconic moments and that feeling of effort is exhausting.

I think that I liked the film a bit more this time around. I think that this time I was able to enjoy certain sections separate from the movie around them. But overall my main feeling was resenting having to root for these two selfish goobers while spicy marimba music told me how fun and in love they were.