This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Aydan Nolan’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Tough to pinpoint my overall feelings given it's length and my anticipation and letting everything in between sink in. Planning on catching it again Monday and however many times after that to further lock in my thoughts, but similarly to how I felt about Roma last year, I think by default this is at least a great movie; it's just the level of how great that is in discussion. And despite my rating I am a little disappointed but everything else I like is as good and better than some of his other films so that's my excuse for the rating.
The boys Brad and Leo as Cliff Booth and Rick Dalton of course are fucking excellent and that quote from Tarantino about getting this generation's Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and capturing them on film is so ridiculously true it's insane. Their performances are both incredible and every single moment together is willed by great chemistry and great writing and at the moment that's probably my favourite aspect of the film. Would be disappointed if they both didn't get acknowledged during award season. Everyone else is fine and does their job - no one's bad but also no one else is above average or on their level at all.
Which would lead me into my qualms around this film. No one is as good because there aren't any characters that are given nearly the right amount of time to prosper, even Margot as Sharon Tate felt underused. Maybe that's the point and if that's the case I will approach it on next watch with an open mind. But right now I'm let down with the use of the many supporting characters and their impact on the main two didn't make as big an impact as I think they might've thought or perhaps should've. Using the same logic I've applied to other filmmakers it'd only be fair to label a large portion of this movie to me self-indulgent. This film made me think of a comment I wrote in my review of 2001: A Space Odyssey - when you can say what you want in 10 words, why opt for 20? I think that applies with a fair chunk of this film, or at least it felt like a lot at the time as it was noticeable to me (especially in car scenes). I don't think it was overly long or whatever either and I definitely didn't feel the length at all and honestly could've lived with even more, but when we have that run-time and the characters and premise involved, the fact we are spending so much time in one place when there is so much potential everywhere else came across as a little bit lacklustre.
Many know that I'm not one to dabble in promotional material and really all I knew about this was the cast and the premise of a story centred around the time of the Manson family murders. Maybe it's my expectations getting the better of me and I suppose to a certain degree I wouldn't argue against that, but I don't know, his only other "real event" film is Inglourious Basterds and that rewrites history and I guess I was expecting his second "real event" movie to do something in a similar vein. Of course it does present an alternate history but I can't say it left me satisfied at all. I think a rewatch will benefit greatly as I now know what to expect and what type of film this is, but I can't lie that I wanted to see an IB-esque ending with Manson and his 'children'. Especially because everything regarding the violence in Dalton's house is exceptional. It was satisfying seeing that happen but in a way that had me cheering in the moment and relishing in such violence and the overall brilliance of the scene until afterwards where I noticed I didn't really care that much about who it was being done too. Again, that very well may be the point and yes I acknowledge this is likely my expectations but this movie is a masterpiece if you put Charles Manson and some more of his underlings directly in the scene and have them being burnt to a crisp by a flamethrower. I think it's a little weird to me as well because it's not like Manson couldn't go and send out a few other crazy disciples a few weekends following and go through with the original plan, like I was satisfied in the moment but upon reflection I can't say I have as much joy and hope as I did in IB. I'll reiterate again that both films' purpose is different and almost definitely the point of each but whatever I wanted to see Manson's face get ripped to a thousand pieces like Hitler's so shame on me I spose.
Despite my initial complaints and uncertainties this is still a fantastic movie, I just think the type of movie I was expecting differed quite vastly from what we got that I can't help but feel hard done by a little. I'd say it's still quite likely I watch this later and reflect on this review and how stupid I was for thinking less of this film, so I can't and could never rule that out. Like I said, by default this is a wonderful film and I do think it's better than a couple of his others despite my problems. I think it goes without saying his typically great components are just as fantastic throughout, though it does have to be said the way he presents this era of Hollywood through the design of characters and their wardrobes and the sets and production design overall is pretty magnificent. I think, on this website of all places that you know what you're getting into when you watch this and it delivers in so many facets so don't think I need to go into great detail about how perfect a lot of this film is. Obviously still letting this one sink in and I'm aware I ripped into this one a little bit but just hoping to get my current thoughts in writing to see how I feel in the future as my opinion seesaws. But at the moment there's a tonne of stuff I love and some stuff I am not over the moon about but nevertheless it's still a great fucking movie.