“I had to come all the way from the highways and byways of Tallahassee, Florida to Motor City, Detroit to find my true love. If you gave me a million years to ponder, I would never have guessed that true romance and Detroit would ever go together. And til this day, the events that followed all still seems like a distant dream. But the dream was real and was to change our lives forever. I kept asking Clarence why our world seemed to be collapsing...And he'd say, "that's the way it goes, but don't forget, it goes the other way too." That's the way romance is. Usually, that's the way it goes, but every once in awhile, it goes the other way too.”
The above is one of the first monologues of "True Romance" which is, in essence, a “monologue movie”. The sheer amount of them gives us incredible depth and insight into our characters, especially the main characters: Clarence Worley and Alabama Whitman. Everything you need to know about Clarence is in the first three minutes of the movie, in which he speaks of his obsession for Elvis and love of Sonny Chiba Street Fighter movies, while simultaneously portraying his substantial loneliness and desperation.
Clarence seems like the loner cool guy, but he's definitely not a loner by choice. His fascination with the “live fast, die young, leave a good-looking corpse” philosophy is often expressed, but he doesn't seem too intent on living that way himself...or maybe he's just never gotten the chance. It's clear he's discontent with his life in Detroit, which is shown as a gray sponge of a city on its last squeeze. His counterpart, Alabama, tells us what we need to know of her back story in the monologue above. At the point Clarence meets her, she's been working as a call-girl for all of four days and Clarence is her third customer. She doesn't seem too happy about her job, but she doesn't seem completely disheartened with it either. She has accepted her fate...until she meets Clarence and realizes she can have more. At times, Alabama may seen like your typical bubble-head-in-the-clouds blonde, but when put to the test, she is a quick thinker and downright ruthless. She takes a punch as well as she delivers one, all the while with a smile on her face.
Alabama is a call-girl and Clarence kills a handful of people as the movie progresses, but these are two of the most pure-hearted characters I've ever encountered: a triumph for Tarantino considering the
raw and bloody nature of the film. Tarantino expertly alternates between violence and romance and sprinkles comedy throughout times of severe drama, but his best talent is in his ability to take a scene at the height of dramatic intensity and flip it into one of absolute sweetness with one line.
This is movie is positively rife with characters, some of which slip in and out within minutes but leave an indelible impression upon the audience. I could go on and on about the different kinds of personalities throughout this movie (Dick Ritchie as “the clown”, Lee Donowitz as “the jerk movie producer”, Floyd as “the stoner on the couch”, etc...) but the one I should mention is the character who kicks off our initial conflict: Alabama's pimp, Drexl.
Although we've had some conflict up to this point, most of it has been overshadowed by the whirlwind romance of Clarence and Alabama. Drexl gives us the first instance in which our main characters get to show not only their true colors, but the shades of who they want to be. Clarence becomes the gun-toting pimp-killer aka “the hero”, and Alabama, despite being terrified by Clarence's desire to face him, falls deeper in love with his romantic and selfless act. Unfortunately, the conflict doesn't die with Drexl. Clarence and Alabama soon discover this when they open Alabama's suitcase to see $500,000 worth of Drexl's cocaine instead of clothes. Correction: Clarence and Alabama's cocaine.
The scene between Drexl and Clarence is beautifully written and expertly acted by Gary Oldman and Christian Slater with Drexl's ghetto grace battling Clarence's cool-guy persona perfectly, but one of the best written scenes in "True Romance" (or any movie) happens between two characters that hardly appear in the movie at all. The exchange between Clarence's father and the gangster pursuing his son over the “stolen” cocaine is not only tense AND hilarious, but you learn a little something about liars and Sicilians.
Without having seen the movie, the title might make you think it's a romantic comedy, and in a way, it is. It's just not your typical 100% lighthearted romantic comedy. Clarence and Alabama's romance is a whirlwind one: wild and lusty and fraught with peril. Sure, it may not be the kind of peril we're used to encountering when falling in love, but the metaphor is clear enough, especially when a suitcase full of cocaine throws a wrench into their romantic works. We've all encountered a “suitcase full of cocaine” in our love lives, haven't we?
Written by Quentin Tarantino and Directed by Tony Scott.
- Christian Slater as Clarence Worley
- Patricia Arquette as Alabama Whitman
- Michael Rapaport as Dick Ritchie
- Bronson Pinchot as Elliot Blitzer
- Saul Rubinek as Lee Donowitz
- Dennis Hopper as Clifford Worley
- James Gandolfini as Virgil
- Gary Oldman as Drexl Spivey
- Christopher Walken as Vincenzo Coccotti
- Chris Penn as Nicky Dimes
- Tom Sizemore as Cody Nicholson
- Brad Pitt as Floyd
- Val Kilmer as Elvis
- Samuel L. Jackson as Big Don