BP’s Top 100 Movie Challenge #8: Pulp Fiction, by Sarah Brinks
I decided to undertake a movie challenge in 2017. This seemed like a good way to see some classic movies that I have unfortunately never seen. The Battleship Pretension Top 100 list provided such a challenge.
I was very late to game on seeing Pulp Fiction. For a long time I had an incredibly negative reaction to anything that Quentin Tarantino created, acted in, or touched in any way. I still have the same reaction to him as person. It’s not based on any one thing, I just irrationally hate his face and voice. But over the years I have started watching his films and finding that I actually enjoy most of them; it is just him that I find repugnant.
One downside to discovering a movie late is that you don’t get to experience it in the same context as everyone else. In 1994, when the film was released, I’m sure its structure and dialogue must have been exciting and new. When I saw it 20 years later, I had already seen countless films that had either stolen, adapted, or paid homage to Tarantino’s style, so that experience was not applicable to me.
I love a good monologue and there are some good ones in Pulp Fiction, especially for Samuel L Jackson. His biblical monologue before they kill Brad and his buddies for the briefcase is so fun and well delivered. I think my favorite scene is at the end of the movie when the robbery of the diner is happening, and Pumpkin and Jules face off. Jules has had his epiphany and he is talking Pumpkin and Honey Bunny down off the ledge. Jules keeps it so cool and defuses the situation with a great speech and a smooth demeanor.
The ensemble cast allows for some fun, smaller performances. Eric Stoltz as the burnout drug dealer is a lot of fun for the couple times he shows up in the film. I’m so used to seeing Stoltz in serious roles, so seeing him in such a different part was really fun and he delivered a great performance. I think my favorite of the smaller parts was Harvey Keitel as The Wolf. I always like the archetype of the guy who is great at his job coming in and taking over a chaotic situation. The Wolf comes in and tells everyone exactly what to do while never really getting his hands dirty and looking cool the whole time.
I also liked the interconnectedness of the stories. Some parts I thought were a little over the top and stupid, like the weird rape-basement, but others were a lot of fun like the dinner at the 50s-themed restaurant and the diner heist. The dance scene between Vincent (John Travolta) and Mia (Uma Thurman) is an iconic scene and great to watch. I always love a good dance scene in a movie and this one really delivers.
One of the things that never sits well with me in Tarantino’s films is the racist language. It is really challenging to tolerate. Maybe it is just my white guilt feeding it, but I really don’t like it. I know it is a token part of Tarantino’s films, but I don’t know who he thinks he is that he can write that kind of dialogue and get away with it. He also can’t help but put himself in Pulp Fiction it is a fortunately small part but to me it feels so indulgent and unnecessary. But as I admitted earlier I cannot stand Tarantino.
Part of me wishes I had seen Pulp Fiction when it was first released but I’m glad that I have discovered it later than never.
I’ve decided to rate each film using an arbitrary scale based on the board game Battleship (lowest: Destroyer, Submarine, Cruiser, Battleship, highest: Carrier)
Pulp Fiction ranking: Battleship