Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

"In this town, it can all change, like that."

The night of August 8th, 1969, brought with it an abrupt and tragic conclusion to the so-called "Summer of Love." The brutal murders of Steven Parent, Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski, Abigail Folger, and a very pregnant Sharon Tate shocked the entire country. But despite the tragedy's far-reaching impact, no place felt its horror more so than Hollywood, in whose hills the massacre took place.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood has been billed as a movie about the Manson Family murders, but I'm not really convinced that's what this film is really interested in. It's more of a eulogy to the Golden Age of Hollywood than anything else. Rick Dalton is a falling star, a has-been on the decline, a man who no longer fits into the world Hollywood is becoming. He worries about being remembered, about being forgotten to time. Sharon Tate is the opposite; she's young, fresh, new. She's not worried about being forgotten because she's barely even known. They're two ships passing in the night, one headed North and the other journeying South, albeit reluctantly.

Hollywood is a Tarantino film, but it's not a "Tarantino" film, and for that I am very grateful. It's a Altman-esque portrait of LA, a meandering epic that perfectly paints Hollywood at a particular time. A lot of people were worried that Tarantino wasn't a good fit to make a movie about such a tragic singular event, but that isn't what he's making. Instead, he's crafted a fairy tale, a love letter to a thing – an idea – that no longer exists. Is it still an odd fit? Sure, but there are few (if any) who fetishize old Hollywood as much as Quentin Tarantino.

I love the whole American New Wave/New Hollywood period, and it's an impossible era to look at without also at least considering the Manson killings. I highly (and humbly) make two recommendations if you, too, are interested in this period: Peter Biskind's book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls and the miniseries "Charles Manson's Hollywood" on Karina Longworth's podcast You Must Remember This. They both give a ton of insight and context, and both are highly educational and entertaining in their own right.

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