By the variety of emotions it triggers, True Romance is a moving movie written by Quentin Tarantino and directed by Tony Scott in 1993. With such a script writer, we expect a bloody and violent movie but what we are given is surprisingly full of positive feelings and emotions.
Clarence Worley (Christian Slater) meets Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette) as he spends his birthday on his own at a kung fu movie projection, after which Alabama romantically invites him to go get some pie. Alabama appears to be a call girl ordered for Clarence on the day of his birthday. They fall in love instantly, get married, but Clarence can’t live with the idea that Alabama’s ex pimp is free somewhere. He then decides to kill him, but when he wants to collect Alabama’s clothes, he gets mixed up and ends up with a suitcase full of cocaine. Starting from there, the lovers are in deep trouble and struggle to get rid of the coke.
The movie focuses on the couple of Alabama and Clarence. We become attached to the lovers very early on, and as the narrative unfolds the romance is always emphasized. The two characters actually convey this idea of strong unity through their seeming indifference to the world that surrounds them, focusing exclusively on each other. Indeed, each time they try to sell the suitcase which is by definition always stressful and crucial, Clarence and Alabama stick together. This has to do with the fact that the movie was directed by Tony Scott and not Tarantino. Released a year after Reservoir Dogs, True Romance is one of the first major screenplays imagined by Tarantino. Perhaps because Tarantino considers this story as the most autobiographic he has ever written, he didn’t felt like directing it and sold it to Tony Scott. Although, Tony Scott kept the whole storyline, his directing choices were more gentle than what Tarantino would have done, especially concerning the fate of the lovers. The story can easily be compared to that of Bonnie and Clyde. A specific kind of ending is therefore expected, although the struggle Clarence and Alabama go through makes us want to see them succeed and get away with it. This feeling is emphasized by the fact that the story is told in a linear way, retelling all the events chronologically.
Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette are amazing in their roles and form an original couple. Slater perfectly renders the bored and lonely middle aged man who goes to the movies alone for his birthday, but who feels a profound need of action in his life. The drastic change in his attitude comes with meeting Alabama and continues with his transformation into a kind of gangster. Patricia Arquette’s performance is very convincing as well, her character is smart, true and cheerful. These qualities are illustrated in the scene where she gets beaten but stays strong, faces the big armed guy, and doesn’t give up. The role is shaped in such a way that we know she is aware of everything that is happening even though she often acts with lightness.
A remarkable scene between Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper retelling a typical Tarantino script recalls his presence at the origin of the movie with an incredible dialogue. The music fits particularly well in the movie as it was directed by the famous music director Hans Zimmer (Thelma and Louise, Gladiator, Interstellar…). The first scenes taking place in a cold, abandoned, gloomy Detroit are given a poetic aspect thanks to the addition of a happy, almost childish music. As this theme picks up at the end of the film, it is associated with the love story as Alabama speaks about their idyll above the music each time.
In the end, True Romance is definitely worth watching. It satisfies the thirst for romance and love story inherent in many of us, as much as the need of action, blood and violence specific to Tarantino’s cinema.
James G. Robinson