The opening of Quentin Tarantino‘s Jackie Brown is a tracking shot of the titular character (Pam Grier) on a moving treadmill inside LAX. Right away you’re noticing how stiff she is — no noticable reaction to her surroundings. Grier’s almost entirely frozen features (she blinks three or four times but otherwise doesn’t move a muscle) suggest the soul of a mannequin.
Right away everyone noticed a close resemblance to the famous opening-credit tracking shot from Mike Nichols‘ The Graduate — a view of Dustin Hoffman‘s Benjamin Braddock on a similar LAX treadmill. Every so often the immobile Hoffman reacts to this or that — the overhead lighting, a person walking nearby, a p.a. announcement — but mostly he just stands there like a robot. The idea was to suggest that Braddock was anxious and intimidated and fearful — afraid to move one way or the other.
In short, there was a point to be derived from Hoffman’s treadmill behavior. But what was the point of Grier doing it? I could never figure that out.
Jackie Brown is not a submerged or intimidated type — she’s a reasonably crafty, mentally alert, alive-on-the-planet-earth flight attendant (Cabo Airlines) who’s just arrived from some destination (presumably Cabo San Lucas). A follow-up shot shows her running to a gate in what appears to be the same terminal, where she’s expected to check people in for a flight. She makes it in time and performs her duties.
The first time I saw Jackie Brown I was immediately muttering “what the hell is this? Why is Grier doing a Dustin Hoffman? What’s the connection?” I still don’t know.