MovieChat Forums > Pulp Fiction (1994) Discussion > Every single character is SUCH A CHARACT...

Every single character is SUCH A CHARACTER!


This script is so overwhelmingly baroque it's like getting a blowjob from a girl while she's chewing peppermint bubblegum, and I don't mean it in a good way.

Every single character is oh so special! with its own backstory, so we have to endure a barefeet taxi driver with a love for gruesome details, a flock-of-seagulls-hairdo-wearing college-dropout-turned-drug-dealer, a whole circus show slew of impersonators as restaurant personnel, a sado maso sodomizer cop, etc.
And unfortunately they all suffer verbal-diarrhea like Tarantino.
His fascination with people is annoying, redundant, unnecessary. We get so many trivial details that it's like having a camera that focuses on everything from a mile away instead of showing us what matters.
The only two people in 2.5 hours of movie that had nothing special about them are:
the kid getting his head blown in the car and the coffee shop manager.

Anybody else who gets to be in the frame of the camera has to have something extraordinary about them, quickly turning the movie into a theme park without visitors, where EVERYBODY is a special character.
I lived in L.A. for 10 years and in that whole stretch of time I haven't met half as many interesting people as in this film.

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That’s what makes it such a great experience. Just because you are a character doesn’t mean you have character.

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"His fascination with people is annoying, redundant, unnecessary."

A fascination with people is one of the things that makes artists make great art. Tarantino's characters are intriguing and fresh, his worlds are wonderful because you can feel the depth of stories here. We happen to follow Butch, but that taxi cab driver is so interesting that I would happily watch her story, too.

If every character in a movie is interesting, that's a great movie.

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"If every character in a movie is interesting, that's a great movie."
That's where we disagree.
I love Pulp Fiction, but I used to love it more when it came out.
The thing that annoys me the most is, after 25 more years of Tarantino, how the freshness of "every character is interesting" wears off pretty quickly.
Not only that, you start seeing how superficial and gimmicky it is: we have our stories in this movie, I think we would gain from adding more atmosphere, information or moments to those stories rather than waste it on the stories of Zed, Fabienne, Esmeralda, Marvin, Rachel, Honey Bunny, Lance, his wife's clit piercing, etc.
I found this lack of focus very cool in 1995, now it just annoys me.

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Now it annoys you? Maybe the fault lies with you and not the filmmaker.

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OK first of all the kid getting his head blown in the car's name is Marvin and he's an informant with an interesting backstory. For instance.. how does he even know Jules, they are friends. How'd he know Brett in the first place? He knows about the briefcase and double-cross, etc

There is no coffee shop manager if you paid any attention. He's just a "coffee shop -" and listen fat man this ain't none of your goddam business.

This film is great because the characters are great. If you haven't met so many interesting people in L.A. that's because the general population lacks individual identity and the status-quo itself has grown retarded and redundant. Remember this movie came out 25 years ago. People were different then.....

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While too many over-the-top characters in a movie can be annoying, here it just works fine. Somehow they still feel natural and not too forced.

"I lived in L.A. for 10 years and in that whole stretch of time I haven't met half as many interesting people as in this film."

Well, most people aren't interesting enough to be a movie character.

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Actors were dying to be in this movie because they knew two things: Quentin Tarantino can WRITE & DIRECT

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Why are you attributing a backstory to a character who has none (Flock of Seagulls)? Why are you acting as if the employees of the themed diner are given any more screentime than a few seconds to establish the setting? Most of the characters you mentioned have little to no dialogue so where does this verbal diarrhea come in?

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Maybe I didn't mean it literally, like a few of these unimportant characters have no deep backstory, but they are intended to stand out as unique and characteristic people, even if they serve no purpose. Even off screen characters have to stand out like bird shit on a tuxedo (like Tony Rocky Horror...wtf...couldn't his name be just Bob Smith?)
This annoying, gimmicky baroque overload is a shortcoming that didn't really hold well in time: I appreciated it way more when it was new; after many other Tarantino movies, his imitators, and watching this movie more than 10 times, it gets real old.

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Tony's name was Tony Rock, but they called him Tony Rocky Horror as a nickname. As for everyone else, I don't know if they stood out all that much. Brad and his friends seemed like young punks who stupidly crossed a mafioso. nothing all that special about them. Eric Stoltz's drug dealer character and his wife seemed like typical druggie types. I can't even remember their names. Even Tarantino's character was apparently just some suburban husband with a normal wife nurse. None of these characters are unique or quirky. You mentioned Esmerelda the taxi driver but other than driving barefoot, I don't recall anything outstanding or unique. Winston Wolf seems to be the only really quirky and outstanding individual among the side characters and that's by design as he is the Ace. I don't really count the rapist police officer as very unique as his sadism served a purpose to the plot. We otherwise, know nothing about the guy. He was one-note.

As for the main cast, Butch was just a loser boxer with a dimwitted girlfriend, Mia Wallace was a bored housewife and failed TV star, and Jules and Vincent were just hitmen. Granted, they were all involved with a mob boss in some form but being a criminal isn't really unique in the crime genre.

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AP sorry but you are trying not to see what I'm talking about. You can diminish Hamlet the way you are doing it: it's a troubled kid because his father is dead. I think more details were actually written in.
All the ones you mentioned are overwrought, overdetailed characters for the part they play in the movie. Look at reservoir dogs for comparison: the characters are detailed and well round, but not overwritten. We don't learn unimportant stuff that Tarantino just thought was so interesting, only backstories that are essential to the movie. And they are not characterized with something offbeat or novel like in PF.
Look, it's a question of style, it's definitely Tarantino's style and in this movie he went overboard. I'm just pointing out how gimmicky it is in nature.

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What is overwrought and detailed about them? You're giving no examples. You mentioned Esmerelda being barefoot but I'd hardly count that as a backstory or her being overdetailed. It's a minor quirk that appeared for a two second shot. Let's go character by character. What is overwrought and detailed about Eric Stoltz and Rosanna Arquette's characters? They really are just drug dealers. Unless you think Rosanna Arquette having piercings counts as a backstory or overdetailed.

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Esmeralda: it is a minor quirk. Maybe, more than just one, no? Have you ever seen a taxi driver with no shoes, woman, that talks as much as she does (+with that accent), that is so interested and interesting, that has so many insightful questions for a boxer she just met? She's on screen for probably 3 minutes and we are overloaded with this details.
Would you see that in any other movie? No, unless the director has the same fetish for baroque overwriting as Tarantino.
But that could have been the one quirky character in a normal world. Instead that goes for EVERYBODY in this movie. They are all minor quirks, but you put them all together in the same movie and you get what I put in this thread title: every single character is such a character!
Stolz+wife, they are supposedly UNDERPLAYED, meaning: they are drug dealers but they lead a "normal" everyday life, with the tv show, cereal dinner, bickering etc. It's, again, a quirky take on a type (drug dealers). Add to that all the details we see in their 2 scenes (I would write for too long to list them all, but they are certainly some very quirky drug dealers) and you get 2 more overwrought characters.
Overwriting means: could they be written in a leaner, less distracting way? Is if functional to the story to know that Jody has a piercing on her clit+tongue, and why that useful? If you think about it, she could have been left out of the script alltogether.

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I have seen female taxi drivers, yes. From my experience, several drivers have accents as well. As for talking, some do and some don't. I don't consider any of that out of the norm. And sure, she asks Butch a lot of questions about him. If you think that scene was about Esmerelda, then I think you're missing the point. That scene is all about Butch.

As for the drug dealers, you might be surprised how normal and mundane they are in real life. Fiction sometimes has us believe they are all psychos with guns that are constantly showing up at schools to force kids to do drugs but more often than not, they're just some normal schlubs living in crappy houses or apartments. They watch TV and bicker and do normal things.

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Yes I'm not saying they are unrealistic. I'm saying they are unrealistically overloaded with special details, that in the movie are unneded and/or distracting. Baroque for the sake of it.

That scene is about Butch, EXACTLY MY POINT!
Gimme an invisible dude that ask some questions and reveals what he feels for killing a man etc. What's the point of Esmeralda Villa Lobos (or whatever is her overdetailed name), her bare feet, the jewelry she wears, etc? I couldn't care less about her!

One thing is to make an interesting character, another one is to push unwanted details for the sake of it. At the end, instead of focusing on what the movie is really about, the movie becomes about that pointles stuff.

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I can think of at least one time where I had a female taxi driver with an accent talk to me on my trip. Her name is Hispanic and their names can be long. I've known quite a few Latinos with long names. That's the culture. I don't know what you mean by her jewelry. I guess she's wearing some?

It seems your only complaint is with a single side character being mildly unique. It's far from EVERY character being unique and quirky.

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Nope, it seems like YOUR only objections are about this one, I'm replying to your complaints about my post.
And frankly, I'm not gonna reply to every single character in PF and explain to you how they are overdetailed for no reasons.
I think I made my point quite clearly.

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You haven't really. You've mostly talked about Esmerelda who, according to you is at least partially quirky because she is a foreign woman. You mentioned a few no-name extras and one minor character who had a single line of dialogue as being quirky, although you walked that one back. Last, you mentioned Lance and Jody as being unique... because they are not unique. If you are going to make a blanket statement about all the characters in a movie, particularly one with many characters, you should be prepared to explain yourself at length.

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Ok, I like your attitude, but I think it's a bit unreasonable from you to expect me to be clearer than I've been and need me to go into details about every character. I'm not making a "blanket statement", it's a statement that does apply to all of them, with only those two exceptions I made.
The fact that Esmeralda is foreigner is not quirky, but it is another unneded extra detail: I would say that most cab drivers in US are foreingers. Do we need to stress it this badly, so Butch needs to read her name and comment on it? When is the last time you entered a cab and cared about the driver's name, and then said "ah, your name is Tarek Abdul! That's such a great name! What does it mean?".
So now, other than ask me again about Esmeralda, which other quirky character in this movie you don't understand it's unnecessary overwrought?

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I've already mentioned many of them above. For instance, Jimmy was just a normal guy who had good coffee and a wife that worked as a nurse. We never get his backstory. He could have been a former hitman which would explain how Jules knew him and could give him an extra quirk, but it's left vague. That is the opposite of what you are criticizing this movie to be.

Brad and his cronies look like typical young guys. We have no idea what their plan was or even what they stole from Marsellus Wallace. We're left, once again, with very vague characters who have zero backstory, have no defining quirks, and the only one who speaks at length is Brad and that's because Jules forces him to.

Going back to Butch, the guy is a huge nobody. Butch talking about Esmerelda's name leads to him admitting his name doesn't mean shit. It adds to his nebulous nature. His career is meaningless, his name is meaningless, and he has nothing to fight for... until the watch is lost. The watch has a more interesting backstory than him.

Ringo and Honey Bunny are just two bit thieves. The only thing that makes them quirky is their plan. It's actually a clever plan, so I think it's uniqueness could be forgiven. As for the backstory, we never get their names, let alone their backstories. Honey Bunny is Ringo's pet name for her and Ringo is only called that as a derogatory nickname by Jules. They are pretty much unknown entities.

As mentioned before, Lance and Jody are just loser drug dealers. Nothing special is revealed about them other than having some minor nursing skills which is important to the plot.

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Jimmy was another overwrought character, who has to pester us with his problems about his nurse wife coming back home because, you know, we care so much about Jimmy having seen him for 5 minutes and knowing that he cases so much about his coffee and linens from his uncle. I can go on for another 5 paragraph about "Jimmy the normal guy". Do I have to?
It's another minor unimportant character who crams way too many useless informations about him.
Brad etc, also "regular guys": they are on screen for 5 min or less, their function is to trigger Jules' speech n conversion. Instead of cutting to the chase, we endure the burger bs n the "what" dialogue. Which are useful to show Jules' inexorability, but also give us the impression that Brad is in the wrong line of business. Which is getting to my point: Brad's "regularity" is what makes him quirky. So is the flock of seagull friend. They couldn't just be 3 shady hoodlums in an alley: they had to be some student type in an apartment eating cheeseburgers for breakfast. Tasty ones, because it's important for us to know that they like their burgers good...Don't you think that's unneeded details for a scene that was there only to show us Jules' character?
Ringo n HB, they are not that "minor" characters so I could use the details we are given, like Vincent or Butch.

Look, I think our discussion should settle on this:
one point PF makes is that everybody, even the gimp, has a backstory and more character to them than we are told in most other movies.
What bothers me (but not you) is that such a "clever" observation had its day in the sun when it was fresh, 30 years ago. After repeated viewings and many imitators, the quirks and originality of each character wear thin, and appear to me as gimmicky, distracting and not needed, while to you they are barely noticeable and welcome.

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Jimmy's wife coming home is a threat to the main characters. That is not a backstory. It's a conflict.

Jules' dialogue with Brad and his friends is also not backstory. It's just dialogue. Jules is playing mind games showing the audience how cold and intense he is so that we have something to juxtapose when he has his "moment of clarity". As for Brad and his friends being "student-types", we need them to be in over their heads so Jules and Vincent seem fully in control of the situation until the moment a guy pops out of the bathroom with a handcanon. That's what kicks off Jules and Vincent's debate about miracles.

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I didn't say anything about that dialogue being backstory, I said that its function is to reveal Jules character.
If anything, them being student types detracts from the whole confrontation and makes the whole miracle debate stupid: the guy with the gun looked like it was the first time he ever used it.
Hence, he missed like that.
Not much of a miracle, I don't know why either one was so surprised. Other than, them being rookies too.
Even more, wouldn't they be used to be the target of bullets? Jules later says "this is not the first time a gun was pointed at me". Maybe he was referring to this incident only, like it never actually happened before that day!
Seriously, any real gangsta would have known what happened there with that rookie, and would have chalked it up as routine.
Just one more example where quirky plays against the movie, instead of for it.

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Raquel was a character. The Wolf even said so.

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Yes, but that doesn't mean that she has character.

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The barefoot taxi driver has more to do with Tarantino's foot fetish lol

Shots of women's feet are constant throughout most of his movies, he is obsessed with them and doesn't care who knows it

As for the quirkiness and snappy dialogue, well that is his trademark. Every great director has their own unique style. He isn't trying to paint a realistic portrait of LA, it's his own zany vision of it. Would you get mad at Van Gogh for not painting a realistic portrait of the night sky?

Tarantino makes it work, IMO. But yeah, the quirky characters do get annoying when you watch his imitators try it

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He does make it work, Pulp Fiction is great. And this stuff is his trademark.
I'm just nitpicking, but it rings gimmicky and not needed to me.

In some movies he restrained himself more than in others.
In reservoir dogs is more subtle and effective (we feel like we KNOW these characters MORE because of the quirkyness + details. In PF I feel the opposite, like it's a gimmick to get our attention or interest but it blocks us from really knowing these people).

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YOURE RIGHT.I HOPE HIS NEXT FLICK IS ALL ABOUT AND FULL OF BORING UNCHARISMATIC DUDS WHO BORE ME TO SLEEP.

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I am a fanboy of his early movies. Everything from Kill Bill Vol. 2 and before, including the stuff that he only wrote but didn't direct, I think are all masterpieces. I can watch them all again and again

And yeah, Reservoir Dogs is definitely way more grounded than Pulp Fiction, but it's also a very different type of movie. It takes place on only a few locations. It's clearly a low-budget movie from a guy doing his first film. It's just ambitious enough to show his talent, but still be financeable. Pulp Fiction has WAY bigger stars (no offense to Roth, Madsen, Buscemi, or Keitel) and a way more complex story. It's a movie made by a guy who was given a blank check by a studio. Pulp Fiction wouldn't be possible if Reservoir Dogs hadn't existed. But it's an extension of Reservoir Dogs, an outgrowth. At least that's the way I see it. I can't fault him for spreading his wings when given the chance. It may be gimmicky, but it's also the creation of a lifelong movie geek finally being allowed to make something from his heart without limits, so it's a beautiful thing

That being said, I agree with you to some extent because I think he should have evolved beyond this style at some point. Inglorious Basterds and after, I didn't like so much. Sure, I enjoyed them somewhat. I can recognize that they're better than the average piece-of-crap released on a typical week, but they didn't make my jaw drop the way his earlier movies did. I will watch his next movie with Leo and Brad, but I don't think it will be anything amazing. I think he should have tried to expand beyond just making talky, ultraviolent "prestige B-movies". At this point I think it's too late for him too evolve. He is nearing retirement. I think he had the potential to be much greater than he ended up being. But then again, maybe his earlier films were only so great because he devoted himself to that style with such devotion that it became impossible for him to move on

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THE MAXIM THAT PEOPLE HAVE TO GROW AND MATURE AND CHANGE IS FALSE.MY NEIGHBOR JUST RETIRED FROM THE POST OFFICE.HE WORKED THERE FOR 45 YEARS.MOST PEOPLE FIND WHAT THEY LIKE/ARE GOOD AT AND STICK WITH IT.RIDE THAT SKILL OR INTEREST RIGHT INTO THE COFFIN.THESE ARE THE SORT OF FILMS TARANTINO ENJOYS AND HE IS GOOD AT HIS NICHE.

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I don't care if people grow or change, as long as they maintain the same level of quality

I don't like Tarantino's later movies that much. If other people do, that's their biz

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I BELIEVE YOU HAVE GOTTEN BORED WITH HIS STYLE AS OPPOSED TO HIS STYLE TAKING A QUALITY DIP.

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Maybe. I don't know. I can't step outside of my own brain and judge his work from a different perspective

Maybe I just prefer modern settings over period pieces. I think that's a big part of it

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THAT I CAN AGREE WITH.DUDE IS STUCK IN A TIME MACHINE THE LAST 3 OR 4 FLICKS.

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It'll be 4 with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, lol. We'll see. I know he's obsessed with the 60s and 70s era of film, so maybe he'll have something really interesting to show us

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