Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★½

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is obviously the work of a skilled auteur. The plot zig-zags in a way that could feel meandering in less skilled hands, but ends up feeling larger than the sum of its parts.

My main criticism is that, despite assured direction, the movie is really lacking in self-awareness; it’s shot firmly from the male gaze, with only men (who have maybe committed matricide?) getting the benefit of nuance and attention on their own merits. It adds up to a well-crafted celebration of boys clubs and Hollywood excess gone by. Right now, I don’t have much of an appetite for that, especially given Tarantino’s own history with Harvey Weinstein and Uma Thurman. Maybe you could call that a “meta criticism”, say I should stick to the film itself...but isn’t this whole film a meta-commentary on the history of American cinema, and the sorts of stories we want to tell about it?

Tarantino knows how to tell effective stories, that much is clear. I’m just not sure I like the one he’s telling.

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