Written by Quentin Tarantino.
Directed by Tony Scott.
Romance. We’ve all been bitten at least once. We’ve all felt the desire for idyllic love and craved the experience we’ve seen in a movie.
Somewhere on a screen in your life, you’ve seen the “perfect” woman with a close-to-flawless history, who was outrageously beautiful and charismatic. She is eventually accompanied by a handsome prince of some sorts who arrives in the knick of time to save the day and they ride off into the sunset with no problems and no real pain. We’ll come back to that.
What Is This Movie About?
True Romance tells the story of Clarence Worley (Christian Slater) an Elvis Presley loving, Kung-Fu fanatic that works at a Detroit comic store. On the night of his birthday, he goes out to a Sonny Chiba triple feature and meets Alabama Whitman, the perfect girl for him. After a passionate night, Alabama, realizing that she may have met her soulmate, confesses her love for Clarence and reveals that she’s an amateur call-girl that was gifted to him as a present from his manager.
Deciding to trust her, Clarence admits that his feelings are mutual. They elope the next day, get matching tattoos and vow that they will proceed with honesty. But Clarence has a chip on his shoulder that leads him through a strange and dangerous journey to free Alabama from her shady pimp, Drexl Spivey (Gary Oldman.) Along the way, Clarence mistakenly steals a suitcase full of cocaine that belongs to a bigger and more serious crime boss, “Blue” Lou Boyle, to be retrieved by his Sicilian consigliere, Vincenzo Coccotti (Christopher Walken.)
What starts as a night of two lovebirds watching movies and eating pie with the promise of eternal bliss easily turns into Bonnie & Clyde. As the two run for their lives they decide to sell the cocaine, seeing it as a once in a lifetime opportunity to change the trajectory of their lives. But these choices come at a huge cost, one that only true love can survive.
Why I Love It:
I fell in love with this movie because it felt like a story I could plausibly hear from one of my friends. The 90’s is when movies began to show the cracks in the perfect love story. As much as we liked to see ourselves in Disney fairytale form, we learned that although we weren’t all call-girls, we were probably closer in personality to Alabama than Cinderella.
Girls like Alabama were never truly represented in film until True Romance. I remember loving Pretty Woman with Julia Roberts, but Julia’s character, Vivian Ward showed absolutely no signs that she was actually a prostitute. She was easily converted into the millionaire world of Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) with no deep friction beyond her vaguely risqué appearance. And even though it seems less ordinary, she was still being saved by a prince (a handsome millionaire) in shining armor.
In True Romance, Clarence doesn’t save Alabama with his excess money or powerful place in society. Instead, they are each the savior to one another with only their love, sincerity and willingness to go all the way to make a better life for themselves.
These personalities touched me because although they are still not entirely real, they don’t feel that way.
Why You Should Watch It:
Traditional Romance stories generally only touch one piece of your soul; the fantasy. For a moment, you can step out of your real world and into a space without the ugly. But that’s only partially fulfilling because the high takes you so far away from what could ever be that when you come back down, reality is harder to swallow.
The juxtaposition of the ideal and the real is the magic in True Romance. The characters are both idyllic and realistic. Both light and dark. Sweet and dangerous. There’s a comedic element to the way Clarence approaches selling the cocaine. But the repercussions of his choices are serious and could cost both their lives. This movie dances between two poles that every person needs to experience. The deeply terrifying and the tremendously joyful.
Remember earlier when I talked about two people riding off into the sunset with no problems and no real pain? Forgive the morbidity, but that’s not the way it plays out in real life. We need the pain to grow. We need the good times to hold on to. We need to see other people’s pain so we know we’re not alone. We need to share how we survive so we show others it’s possible.
While Tony Scott is a visual art maestro, this movie doesn’t stop at cinematic excellence. That’s the cherry on top. Beyond the infamous purple Cadillac, the endless cheetah prints against rich and pastel colors, Hawaiian tops and the brightly shot scenes that make you wanna pack up and move to Los Angeles, the anchors are the themes of loyalty, faith, fun and perseverance. The diamond is the story itself.
A healthy escape to me is one not fully void of reality, but one that makes you feel like you can cope when you return to your life. If Romance movies were drugs, the traditional ones are along the lines of heroin. They take you out of space into a state of ecstasy, but they cripple your outlook upon return. True Romance is like a really good Sativa. It’s strong enough to take you into the clouds just high enough to remind you that it’s not so bad on the ground.
So if ever you feel the need to satiate your love fantasy within balance, step into the world where the cream of the crop is a man that would kill your pimp, his whole crew and steal their cocaine so you both can start over in life. And imagine the possibility that your dream girl may have been around a bit, but she’d be willing to die for you in a fight against the mob before letting them kill you first.
Whoever said romance is dead was probably expecting the fairytale. Thank God that love is more dynamic, more rewarding and has more depth than what we’ve seen on TV. But at least Quentin gave us a snapshot of the real thing. The lesson is, if you want real love, you and your partner have to be real and you gotta take the good with the bad. This is the blueprint to follow for “True Romance.”