Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★★★½

Possibly Tarantino’s lightest film, as an obvious ode to Leone’s Once Upon a Time..., revamping his style and prose for a softer approach to the impending violence at hand. Similarily, Leone undercuts the onscreen dialogue with quick cuts and flashbacks. Not only as a reflection of the culture and people existing in this world, but a personal introspection on the success of his film career. 

Tarantino also seems somber and reflective about the film industry and LA in general. This differs from other LA-themed movies such as Mulholland Drive or Neon Demon — that look through a cynical lense —Tarantino finds a happy (can’t believe I’m using “happy” in a Tarantino review) outlook for every character to walk away with. Cliff Booth (Pitt) lives in a comfortable, behind-the-scenes, Big Lebowski existence taking care of Rick Dalton (Leo) and his dog in a small trailer home. Leo may be slowly fading out of the spotlight and recessing into a TV career, but finds that his drive is still present and appreciated. Sharon Tate (Robbie) never growing beyond b-list fame (well, you know, apart from what happened in reality) remains joyful and delighted to see herself on-screen. All of these characters gain a comeuppance, not out of violence as opposed to other Tarantino films, but out of... believing in themselves? It’s a strange thought to chew on in a Tarantino, but one I’m glad he approached. Again, like Leone, he maintains his overall aesthetic while also trying to do something new. 

There’s also that strange piece where the movie speaks more about TV than film. Every character, except Sharon, is invested in their nightly TV rituals. The upcoming Manson Family onslaughter is sparked by acid-logic TV-inspired violence. This makes me reminisce on the famous Tarantino interview on Nightline — he draws a difference between movie violence and real-life violence — then to have these characters who were actually inspired to violence based on their feelings on TV. There’s obviously more nuance to this in the real-life murders, and a whole book detailing them, but specifically here it’s correlation to the accusations on violence in his movies vs literally beating to death the hippies who believe in this ideology. Interesting nibbles to think of. 

Before I turn this into a whole goddamn paper, I want to shout out that Leo really killed it for me in this one. It may be my favorite role of his. His ability to convey the emotional insecurity of Rick Dalton and being able to flip from actor acting to Dalton-depression was so sincere. Hush, I loved it. 

There’s still a million other pieces I could deep dive into, but these are the main bits and bobs I gathered while writing like a madman about my thoughts (she’s on brand, folks). I think Tarantino actually made a really thoughtful film and wasn’t only an enjoyable hang-out with wonderful characters, but a really good piece of layered introspection. I sound pretentious, I know.

Oh well.

Happy trails. 

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