Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★★★

Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film is probably his most cheerful and effervescent. Because it has to be. A man who’s built a career around his love affair with cinema as an art form, here finally delivers a piece that is literally about that and nothing else. This is all flash, pizazz and exuberance. He’s jumping up and down and dancing and singing and inviting you in. 

Tarantino’s laconic, lackadaisical approach to romanticizing his Golden Age of Hollywood might turn off fans of his more intense pop confections, but this is absolutely a QT movie through and through. And it’s also, predictably, his most personal and internalized work. And I’m not just saying that because there are more shots of women’s feet than all of his previous eight films put together. I mean, let the man have his kicks, what’s the problem? 

No. The thing is this film, more than any other, feels like a trip directly into Tarantino’s head and through his bloodstream...straight to his heart. It doesn’t paint an accurate picture of 1969 Hollywood so much as it presents a vision of the world entirely through his eyes. It’s not only the Hollywood he wishes for. It’s the Hollywood he sees...as he experiences it. His view of life...in general.

Consider that it’s all centered around people who live and breathe movies. Their life revolves around movies and, ultimately, is a movie - a dreamland of artifice. And the characters who inhabit this story are not people, not in the truest sense. They are symbols. They are archetypal representations. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt - two sides of the same idealized coin - are “The Artist” in its purest distilled form. Sharon Tate represents the innocence of Hollywood. It’s all brilliance and shine and goodness and kindness at its heart, no matter the darkness around and beneath.

And then, finally...in an eerie, Twilight Zone depiction of a particular hippie commune and their ultimate destiny, Tarantino demystifies the cult of personality. He exposes the Charles Manson “myth” in all its pointlessness and abject stupidity...and completely demolishes the fuck out of it in a defiant act of pure rage...and he does this with a relish that is palpable. And, in doing so, commits perhaps the most truthful act of his entire career. Even in what may arguably be his most artificial film.

You have to admire the brazen ambition. Tarantino has been blessed with the opportunity to make exactly the movies he wants, however the hell he wants to make them. His filmography is a scrapbook. And here is the crushed rose at the center...the leftover lollipop from that unforgettable teenage date.