Study Guide

Reservoir Dogs Storytelling

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Story Time with Mr. Orange

Storytelling's a continuing motif in the film. Movies are stories. Directors are storytellers. Actors are storytellers. Reservoir Dogs is, of course, itself a story and we the viewers are the audience.

All of this pretty much goes without saying. We know that Tim Roth is a British actor who doesn't actually have an American accent and certainly not whatever kind of '90s LA dialect that Orange has, but that doesn't matter. We believe it because it's what we see as part of a coherent story.

The same is true of our story within the story, by which we mean Orange's commode story. Maybe a lot of what you think you know about Orange comes from the story he's telling, fooling both the audience and Joe into thinking he's cool in the face of pressure. In the story, he walks into a bathroom carrying weed and runs into a bunch of sheriffs and a police dog. He stays cool, does his business, and walks right out again.

Think about it, though. We know Orange works as an undercover cop. He practices the story like crazy. He spends a whole lot of time looking in the mirror and reassuring himself that the undercover operation is going to a success and he'll be okay.

ORANGE: Don't pussy out on me now. They don't know. They don't know s***. You're not going to get hurt. You're f***ing Baretta. They believe every f***ing word 'cause you're super cool.

All the stuff about him in the commode story being cool under pressure is just a story, but it's a story with purpose. It parallels the very situation he's in while telling it. Joe and Eddie and White are the Sheriffs and the German shepherd. Orange has to act convincing by doing what Joe refers to as "s*** your pants and dive in and swim."

The elaborate commode story is an "in your face" move by Orange. Just as in the commode story, he takes his time to appear extra nonchalant and make sure his hands are nice and dry, he has to work hard to make a convincing impression on Joe. In fact, we even have a story within the story within the story—the imaginary sheriff is telling his fellow officers about a man who almost got shot by a cop who pulled him over because he went for his car registration rather than keeping his hands on the dash.

We'll leave it up to you to guess what that's all about.

Our Hero Holdaway

Holdaway gives Orange a speech about storytelling. He says that if Orange isn't a good actor, he's a bad actor and that bad acting is no good (wow—really going out on a limb there, Holdaway). Basically, Orange doesn't want to memorize four pages of monologue but Holdaway tells him it's not about memorization, it's about getting into character. It's about knowing all of the little details and letting the mind of the listener fill in the blanks.

This again makes us think about the movie as a whole. How much do we know about these guys? We don't really get much of a background, and the flashbacks only take us so far. White worked with a girl named 'Bama, Blonde did some time for Joe, Pink… is cheap?

Then of course there's the glaring hole of the heist. We don't know a whole lot about it, but just like Holdaway tells Orange to do, Tarantino gives us some details and some context and our minds fill in the rest. By structuring the movie in a nonlinear way, we're always left wondering what's going on until another scene or chapter fills us in. That draws us into the narrative, just like Orange had to draw in Joe and the rest.

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