Pulp Fiction

There was a long period of time where I felt nothing but irritation towards Quentin Tarantino and all of his films, including Pulp Fiction, which he directed in 1994. This was during high school, where it seemed like watching Tarantino was a rite of passage. Afterward, no one was sure why they liked the movies they saw other than the fact that everyone else saw them, and now they could quote them and reference them together. It was similar to how people seem to only remember the funny, quotable parts of Apocalypse Now. I didn't hate Tarantino, but I hated what his movies became when stupid kids watched them, when they had no plot or characters, just single lines of dialogue. It wasn't so much that they were "popular" as it was that they just became so devoid of what it was that I liked about them.

After a long enough stretch of time, and my mind open enough to re-visit them, I finally sort of fell in love with these movies again. Pulp Fiction is an incredible movie - for so many reasons. It helped that I watched it again when I had seen more films, and I knew the genres that Tarantino was referencing; when I was mature enough to think about the meaning of the plot and characters instead of just "heh, foot massage!" Of course, like all other very famous and loved movies, there is so much analysis on this now that it's tiring to me. So I'll skip over that, if you want to find it, the internet is here for you.

I can't write about a Tarantino film without writing about the dialogue. The thing is that watching it as a kid, I was too stupid to understand that it had a point or any meaning. Watching it as an adult, and as someone with some sort of film interest, it was so obvious that the dialogue had an actual point to it. There isn't a single conversation that isn't referenced again in a meaningful way. Ebert, as I discovered, finds this as well in the movie, writing, "Tarantino's dialogue is not simply whimsical. There is a method behind it. The discussion of why Quarter Pounders are called ``Royales'' in Paris is reprised, a few minutes later, in a tense exchange between Jules and one of the kids" (The Great Movies, 382). The dialogue helps us to relate to characters we wouldn't understand otherwise, for one thing. We feel like we are friends with Vincent and Jules, since we have similar, stupid conversations with our good buddies. Normally, we aren't like them - we're not hitmen, or at least I assume we are not.

Whenever I think of this movie, I think of watching it in a class on film noir I took my senior year. It was really more of a class where we watched movies that the professor wanted to share with us because he loved them. When we watched Pulp Fiction, he pointed out how important Butch is to the film, and how ignored he is. I guess I never thought about it until he brought it up, but he was so right. Butch is the only redeemable character in the film. He is the only person who actually does something kind and good, who could actually be "saved", if you will. The other characters are morons - they bumble around and screw up everything they do. Jules sounds really important and smart because he can quote a long, cobbled-together bible passage but in fact, he really doesn't know what it really means. Like when people use a big word they don't really know the definition for. He might think he is capable of change, but he doesn't have the potential. We actually see Butch change - we see him go from being a doofus like everyone else to someone who actually has morals and acts with intention. He changes when he goes back to save Marsellus from the weird rapist freaks. He doesn't have to go and do this. Marsellus, if he wasn't killed afterward, would probably do whatever Butch wanted, if Butch would keep his mouth shut. Instead, Butch has emotions. He has some sense of morals. He goes back and saves Marsellus, even though he doesn't like him, even though it doesn't benefit him. And he is the most forgotten about character in the movie. He doesn't have as much memorable dialogue or comedic scenes, so I think he tends to get left behind. I used to not think about him much either, but once my professor brought this up, I could never get it out of my head. It really makes sense, and it's a really unique and interesting way to look at this film.

If you have somehow not seen this movie, you really have to. It's fun, the dialogue is incredible, and the characters are so memorable. You don't have to get all of the movie references for the film to be brilliant. It's why it's so loved by so many people, of different backgrounds and ages. It's always worth watching again, as well. Maybe try looking up some of the various analysis that's been done on it, or watch it and focus on Butch instead of Jules and Vincent. There is always something new to see in this movie, since the characters are so deep and realistic, and there are so many little cinematic touches. Every time I watch it, I have seen more films that I see references to, which is really fun.

Have any thoughts about Pulp Fiction? Share your thoughts in the comments!

 Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Pulp Fiction

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