There are few reactors, let alone actors, as impressively cool as Robert Forster. Currently co-starring in Twin Peaks, Forster comes to Santa Rosa for an appearance at the Roxy’s screening of Jackie Brown (1997). He was nominated for an Oscar for his role in Quentin Tarantino’s adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel Rum Punch.
Jackie Brown is an uncharacteristically pulp-free crime drama about weariness and risk. It enshrines actress Pam Grier, whos used to say at interviews, “I come from a long line of skillet-throwing women.” She can be fierce, but this is also about her grace: a woman walking against a background of walls covered with ceramic tiles, so that the reflected light gives her a little extra glow.
In the title role, Grier plays a $16k a year flight attendant on a puddle-jumper airline, who’s also a bagman for the ruthless gun dealer Ordell, played by Samuel L. Jackson. The man who—almost—gets Jackie Brown is Forster’s Max Cherry, an unruffled South L.A. bail bondsman. He has a walnut tan and hair transplants that show a little. Jackie perplexes him. It goes without saying that a stewardess is always going to be a flight risk. Yet Cherry is keen enough to tell the difference between an out-and-out criminal and a real lady in trouble with the police.
In its insistence that people only really get interesting when they’re on the unhappy side of 40, Jackie Brown paves the way for Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. Forster’s quiet competence holds its own against Jackson’s remarkable force. When Ordell tries to jive him into sympathy, Cherry says quietly: “Is white guilt supposed to make me forget that I’m running a business?”
Forster is not only a first-rate actor, but an impressive public speaker—one hopes someone in the audience will ask Forster for his definition of the word “respect,” a Jackie Brown–worthy lesson for anyone who tries to impress through the act of oafishly threatening others.
Robert Forster appears at the Aug. 17 screening of ‘Jackie Brown’ at the Roxy Stadium 14, 85 Santa Rosa Ave., Santa Rosa. 707.525.8909.