Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★★★½

There's part of me that struggles with this movie, as it seems to worship the pre-70s Hollywood in a way I relate to (love those movies baby), but feel very conflicted about. Mix in Quentin's comments on Stern about Roman Polanski and you get a nice little cocktail of uncomfortable politics.

Another part of me wants to give Quentin the benefit of the doubt. He mirrors Polanski's inclusion in the film with Manson and treats him with the same flippancy. He frames the film with an overarching sense of melancholy, so even when the cowboys of the conservative, masculine old Hollywood get their victory, it doesn't taste that sweet.

A third part of me looks at this from an even wider view - and sees it as a personal film about Quentin wrestling with these same issues, a hangout movie in what feels like the end of the world (my favorite kind of movie), and an actual portrait of Hollywood, ugliness and all. Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth may be the protagonists of the film, but seeing them as the avatars for the movie's capital P point is too shallow a reading. Framing their guys-on-the-precipice-of-the-end story against Sharon Tate's, a star on the rise who doesn't know she's on the precipice of the end, paints a pretty complex picture deserving of a deep reading. I'll have to watch it a few more times to parse that out, but this film has wormed its way inside of me, challenged me, and given me a pretty great ride all in one.

Sidenote: I can't believe critics are referring to the Bruce Lee scene as anything but a complete fantasy inside Cliff's head. I found that pretty obvious. The guy has his own fairy tale about himself.

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