'True Romance': The Peak of the Postmodern Road Movie

Updated on July 9, 2018

Productions of road movies have seemed to come to a stop especially in light of the genres former popularity. Spring Breakers director Harmony Korine has recently said, "You cant make a road movie anymore because everyone has GPS. It's impossible to lose yourself anymore." Although there have been some fantastic examples of a resurgence in the genre in recent years (American Honey and Grandma to name a few) it is difficult not to look back at the films released at the genre's peak of popularity within the postmodern cinema of the 1990s. A personal favourite being the ever so cool Hanz Zimmer scored, Quentin Tarantino written, and Tony Scott directed True Romance. This article will analyze how True Romance offers a different take on the road movie genre, and explain how the film's value of style over substance substitutes the genre's conventional commentary of the ideology of the 'American Dream'.



As a postmodern production, True Romance is filled with intertextualities of many types of art references. A prime example of this is through the portrayal of the film’s protagonist, Clarence (Christian Slater), and his overriding obsession with Elvis Presley. Clarence’s narrative goal and his moral decisions are made through what can be perceived as thinking out loud, but is literally presented as a conversation with a faceless caricature representation of Elvis which is mimicked through Val Kilmer's performance as the idolised "King of Rock 'n' Roll". The iconographies are very clear as this Elvis is presented in a sparkling gold suite, his hair is quaffed in a 1950s pompadour, and Kilmer does a succesful job with a vocal performance that mimicks the icons "Southern Drawl". These conversations are not performed literally face to face; they are in fact performed through Clarence’s reflection. Certain mid-shots are used in this scene to portray Clarence and Elvis within the same frame of the mirror reflection. This is used to show that Clarence’s overriding obsession to look, act, and be like Elvis has essentially made him fabricate his own voice of morality into a superficial figure of Elvis.David Laderman observes that; ‘As in the postmodern road movie, representations playfully subsumes reality, imagery ironically consumes politics.’ For example, a key narrative conflict between Clarence and an antagonist, Drexl (Gary Oldman), was devised through the first example of these conversations. Therefore, without the consultation from this Elvis figure, Clarence would not have embarked onto his journey along the road. The ideology of the original road movie is substituted for this obsession over this mental image of the films protagonist.

Conventional to many of the road movies of the 1990s such as Thelma and Louise and Natural Born Killers, as spectators we are positioned with an outlaw couple and their journey to salvation. According to Jack Boozer ‘these young couples may challenge social convention or even crime, and may succeed in expanding the limits of social accommodation, but their pop culture image-consciousness encloses them within artifice.’ The outlaw couple of Clarence and Alabama (Patricia Arquette) do in fact challenge social convention by being rebellious through murder, stealing and even drug dealing. However, they perform these crimes not simply to be rebellious, but to actually escape the world of crime and create a more traditional peaceful family lifestyle together. Boozer continues to explain; ‘They long for a nostalgic, traditional gender and family organization, and thus remain within an endless circulation of cultural quotations characteristics of postmodern hegemony.’

True Romance essentially works more as a romantic take on the road movie, as this quest for a traditional family lifestyle is achieved within the resolution of the film. The final scene depicts the outlaw couple driving away and surviving a gunfight. As they drive into Mexico, the setting transitions from the road to a sunset-lit beach, where Alabama watches her husband Clarence playing with her son, Elvis. The story of this outlaw couple ends happily, and highly romanticized as the final shot of a simmering sunset in parallel to a Hans Zimmer score filled with joyful toned arpeggios from the sounds of steel drums closes the narrative.

Furthermore, this highly romanticised ending offers a more revised conclusion to the road movie. Laderman observes about the film genre that; ‘Recent road films often make fun of the genre as they revisit/ revise it.’True Romance revises the genre as it does not offer an ideology of escaping traditional values of the ‘American dream’, it actually reinforces these traditional values. As already analysed the final scene depicts this perfectly, as a traditional heterosexual family is presented in the new-equilibrium of the narrative. But as well as this example, the couple's journey along the road shows examples of patching up broken family ties. For example, during the narrative problems and complications of the film, Clarence is reunited with his Father Clifford (Dennis Hopper), who he hasn’t attempted to contact for many years. Instead of the father rightfully rejecting Clarence’s plea for help, he helps him sincerely as he gives him money to carry traveling along the road with Alabama. Scenes such as these show Clarence’s transformation along the road from being a rebellious bachelor to a traditional family man.


In conclusion, True Romance provides stylised postmodern imagery, in favor of establishing a political sentiment of the road movie genre and the ‘American dream’. Laderman observes that; ‘Visual thrills often over-compensate for a lack of historical, social, or political grounding, even when the point of view is marginal.’ This describes True Romance quite well, as the sentiment of the film is essentially style over substance. Arguably, the only ideological stance on the genre the film provides is a return to family values in the narrative resolution. However, this is a coherent convention throughout the postmodern productions of this genre. As similar road films such as Natural Born Killers and Wild at Heart provide the same narrative conclusion of a new family within a new equilibrium.


Work's Cited

Boozer, Jack, “Seduction and Betrayal in the Heartland: Thelma and Louise”, in Literature Film Quarterly, vol. 23, no. 3 (1995)

Laderman, David, “what a Trip: The Road Film and American Culture” in Journal of Film and Video vol. 48, no. 1-2 (Spring-Summer 1996)

Laderman, David, Driving Visions: Exploring the Road Movie (Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 2002)

© 2018 Andy Sciambarella

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, reelrundown.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://reelrundown.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)