I have, complicated, opinions on Quentin Tarantino. The man is a certified piece of crap, racist and sexist in the most insidious, “did that really happen?” ways. Not to mention the way he’s got that successful young white dude thing where his personality and work kind of atrophied after his biggest success.
I haven’t loved a Tarantino movie since Inglorious Basterds (which is still my favorite of his) at least until this one came along. Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood is a melancholy love letter to the kind of movies that Tarantino loves, the sordid blood soaked B-list flicks of yesteryear.
It’s also his way of saying goodbye. He’s mentioned he was thinking of retiring after this, so we’ll see.
Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood weaves the fictional story of TV Cowboy Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his best friend/stuntman Cliff (Brad Pitt) together with the creepy and tragic tale of real life starlet Sharon Tate and The Manson Family.
Tarantino uses the ticking clock of the Tate’s murder beautifully, and the ending is cathartic and elegiac and stunningly Tarantino.
*Spoilers From Here On Out*
As four of Manson’s followers park in front of Tate and Polanski’s mansion (Rick lives next door and one of the kids played by Maya Hawke in a bit of generational symmetry) Rick comes out drunk and furious to berate them, telling them to go loiter elsewhere. Furious, the three remaining change their mind and go to attack Rick instead of Sharon. They’re met by Cliff, who then beats them to death.
There’s so much blood in this scene, if it were any other director. But this is Tarantino and the finale is downright restrained by his standards and all the more glorious because of it.
We need to talk about Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate though. Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood casts Tate as a kind of bright light, a flip side flower child to the glassy eyed and shadowy Manson kids, who are presented from jump as feral and creepy and off. (Margaret Qualley plays Pussycat, the one we get to know best and she’s great.) Robbie is a star. I’ve never not enjoyed her presence in a movie and she imbues Sharon with a sort of gorgeous unbound joy. She’s dancing in every frame. She’s smiling and laughing and exuding sunshine. Some hay has been made of her lack of lines, but her silence speaks here. It’s warmth and light and an incredible performance.
I mentioned Tarantino’s use of dramatic irony here. Anyone who knows their Hollywood history knows about Tate’s fate. It’s tragic and awful and pointless. Tarantino, who rewrote World War II to have a bunch of Jewish-Americans burn Hitler to death, here saves some people from pointless violent death at the hands of monsters. This is being dissected, but it’s also part of what gives the movie it’s melancholy. “Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if things could have gone this way? If this young woman and her child could have lived and fulfilled their potential? If her friends could have had theirs?”
The movie isn’t perfect but it’s wonderful.
- Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood
- Spider-Man: Far From Home
- Avengers: Endgame
- Detective Pikachu
- Godzilla: King Of The Monsters
JoJo Rabbit: I think I need to read this book to get a sense of what I’m getting into. I trust Taika Waititi but this seems like pretty blunt satire, even for me.
Good Boys: I had high hopes for this, because I thinking letting a movie about middle schoolers have an R rating would allow for conversation that actually matched middle schooolers, but this looks like it’s leaning into an adult view of “haha the kids say swears and don’t understand sex talk, isn’t that weird?” which is not what I wanted.