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Songs of Experience

There's a point near the middle of Jackie Brown, Quentin Tarantino's 1997 cinematic love letter to the cool resolve and commanding presence of Pam Grier, where Grier's titular character and Max Cherry, a beleaguered bail bondsman played with just the right amount of weariness by Robert Forster, are sitting at Brown's kitchen table. Max facilitated Jackie's release from jail the night before, and she helped herself to his gun for self-protection; he's at her house to retrieve it.

He's surprisingly sanguine about her having snagged his firearm, even offering to let her hold on to it. ("It wouldn't be legal," he says, "but if it makes you feel better, I guess.") She demurs but does offer him coffee, black, and after putting on the Delfonics' luscious "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind)" the two sit down at the table to have a chat about her future—well, their future, really.

"Max," she says after a back-and-forth about the nuts and bolts of the interrogation that preceded her landing in jail. "How do you feel about getting old?"

Max takes this as a sign to compliment her—"you look great," he smiles—but for Jackie, the question isn't about age. It's about possibility and potential, and how those both seem to be in rapidly diminishing supply with each passing day. "I always feel like I'm starting over," she tells Max, before reflecting on how her past and the men in it have relegated her to the lowest-level job she could take, stewardessing on the bargain-basement shuttle Cabo Air, trafficking cash (and the occasional squirreled-away narcotic) across the border for Samuel L. Jackson's Ordell Robbie.

It's a pretty bleak existence, Jackie Brown's day-to-day, leavened only by coffee and her formidable selection of soul LPs. (She hasn't bought into what Cherry calls the "whole CD revolution.") She's smart and strong, as evidenced by the way her mind launches into pure survival mode during her arrest, incarceration, and subsequent trip home—but...