I was reminded of this film when I saw Drive this weekend. Drive and True Romance both have this sensitivity/brutality, garishness/darkness dichotomy thing going on, and despite wildly differing in tone, both stories are in similar veins of "petty criminals get in over their heads" + sweet romance. Ryan Gosling's scorpion-pattern jacket is already iconic enough to have inspired fan-made posters, but it comes from the same school of cheap, artificial-fibre colourful Americana as the less famous costumes of True Romance.
My main reason for loving the clothes in this movie is Alabama, Patricia Arquette's character. If I saw this woman in real life I would instantly want to congratulate her on her style. Throughout the film she's wearing these hyper-tacky, candy-coloured outfits in varying levels of public inappropriateness (there's a lot of visible bra going on, a look that's approved by Tracey Emin, Betsey Johnson, and not very many other people). The picture above says it all: matching blue bra, plastic earrings, sunglasses, belt, and -- although you can't seen them -- boots. Plus a cow-print skirt. It's marvellous.
When we first see Alabama she's wearing what we could probably interpret as her work clothes as a call-girl, if we didn't later learn that she really does dress like that all the time.
|Clarence is so grungey.|
Before he meets Alabama, Clarence tries to pick up this girl in a bar who, on paper, looks very similar to Alabama:
This shirt is fantastic. Where do you even FIND something like that? It's perfect for her -- a combination of cutesy patterns, fragility and sluttiness. Plus the pink leopard-print leggings. She's rarely seen without some kind of fake animal skin on her body, is Alabama Worley. Either that, or polka-dots. If I were to describe her style in one word, it'd probably be "bimbo". The blonde, perky girl is a staple of American pop-culture but usually she's either an idiot or a bitch, Mean Girls style. This makes me appreciate the few characters like Alabama, Buffy or Legally Blonde's Elle Woods, who turn those stereotypes around by proving that one personality trait doesn't necessary predict another.
|She's wearing Clarence's sunglasses! ~~True Romance!!|
Every Halloween you see people dressed as Uma Thurman's character in Pulp Fiction, mostly because it's an easy costume to make (black wig + white shirt and fake blood) and it's easily recogniseable for that all-important OMG I TOTALLY LOVE THAT MOVIE non-conversation at parties. As Tarantino's first big film (if that, because while it's his script he didn't direct it), True Romance is kind of a precursor to Pulp Fiction and his other more famous movies. Although I have more affection for True Romance I do think that Pulp Fiction is the better film, but in my opinion Alabama is a far more interesting character than Uma in Pulp Fiction, as well as (and yes, critics, I know this isn't very "important") far better dressed. I'd love to see an Alabama Worley or two knocking around next Halloween -- I'd dress as her myself, if I didn't lack almost every physical attribute necessary to make these outfits look good.
Gary Oldman is in this movie. I state this simply because often when one points this fact out to people who have already seen the film, their minds are blown. Why? Because he plays Drexl, Alabama's horrifying pimp who thinks he's black because he's 1/4th Cherokee. The way he plays Drexl makes it pretty difficult for the viewer's brain to make the connection to "white British character actor".
In case anyone needs a second to wallow in thoughts of Gary Oldman's ridiculous versatility as an actor, think about Harry Potter. Then think about the Fifth Element. Then check out my post on his most recent film, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
|"I know I'm pretty, but I ain't as pretty as a pair of titties." -- Sirius Black.|
I'm posting this group shot because I love the way these characters, like many walk-on roles in Tarantino films, are all immediately recognisable stereotypes. All three are criminals, but what you end up with is: Africab-American guy in sweats and a bunch of gold jewellary, Drexl the druggie pimp who wants to be black, and Samuel L. Jackson as a straight-up 1970s gangster who wouldn't look out of place in an episode of Starsky & Hutch. Mustard-coloured rollneck sweater? Brown leather jacket? Scarf? Hat? Maroon sunglasses? Awesome. And in the background we can see the bottom half of Drexl's "muscle", because everyone who's ever experienced any Western fiction from the past 500 years knows that the muscle has no identity or personality of his own, and is usually a guy who stands in the background with his face obscured while other people get the dialogue.
At the other end of the criminal-stereotype spectrum we have Christopher Walken's character, who is delightfully Christopher Walkenish and delivers one of the most recognisably Tarantino-esque scenes in entire film. He's a Sicilian mobster, in case you couldn't deduce that from the fact that he looks like the ultimate #1 Sicilian mobster.
|You handsome devil. Literally.|
He knows how to accessorise. And I'm not just talking about the three silent goons paid to stand behind him and laugh at his threats/jokes while looking dapper yet menacing.
So, are the costumes of True Romance life-changingly brilliant? Probably not. But they're real. They work incredibly well in context. And more importantly, some of the characters live up to expectations while others break free of the assumptions people make based on appearance, just like in real life. (But let's not front -- this post was mainly just a love song to Patricia Arquette's cupcake/call-girl visible-bra outfits. LIVE LONG AND PROSPER, GOLD SUNGLASSES OF ~TRUE LOVE.)
|(.gif via Tumblr) (Badass attitude via Patricia Arquette.)|