Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Having sat with this and the discussion around this over the past few days, I’d like to clarify a few thoughts I have on it.

You can be as critical of the artistic choices Tarantino makes as you want, but honestly, approaching it from a place of claiming moral superiority over those who enjoy the film is flat out pretentious and immature. Along with that, boiling down the ending to “people cheering for women being murdered” is a drastic oversimplification. Those “women” people have been referring to are literal cold blooded killers.  In my opinion, they lost the right to be looked at as just women when they cut that baby out of Sharon Tate.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to the good. The best aspect about this film in my opinion is that it’s the least Tarantino movie Tarantino has ever made. Not to say that I dislike his previous work (quite the opposite), but this shows a level of restraint from him that I haven’t seen since maybe Jackie Brown. These characters feel like real people, and even though some of them are real people, the fictional characters are even developed to that level. Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth are easily my favorite Tarantino protagonists, and both actors give career best performances playing them. 

The pacing of the film is also something I’ve heard some criticism of, some saying how it doesn’t have Tarantino’s typical breakneck pace and energy to it. I get why that might be offputting to some longtime fans of his, but that pacing wouldn’t have fit here, because the story being told is a very personal one. Tarantino said he originally planned this as a novel, which makes a lot of sense seeing as how each scene feels like a new chapter in these characters’ lives, as well as the film feeling almost like an Ernest Hemingway story in that it just flows from one place to the other, following its characters on their various pursuits and errands. What may feel like meandering to some felt like meditating to me. 

The most genuine aspect of the film, however, is the L.A setting. The cars, the shops, the music, it all fits together perfectly. I grew up in L.A, so I think I appreciated it a lot since I recognized a lot of the streets and places they visit in this. As for Tate and the Manson family, all I can say is that this is the best possible outcome I could’ve hoped for when it comes to this story being told by Tarantino. People were upset when it was revealed that Sharon Tate didn’t have that many lines, but honestly, I think it worked for the film. The way Tarantino explained it was that he didn’t want to try and inject her into this big, complicated story. Like Rick and Cliff, he just wanted the audience to spend time with her, doing normal things, being the person that she was. This gave us a real genuine look into her life, and gave her the tribute she deserved by separating her legacy from the brutal murder that would eventually define her.

As for the Manson’s, the film did the best it could with those lunatics. Charlie only has one scene, which is good, because giving that creep anything more would’ve been too much. As for the girls, and the rest of the family, they were portrayed exactly how they should’ve been. They were stupid, selfish idiots who let themselves be manipulated by a narcissistic psychopath, and they don’t deserve an ounce of your sympathy. Watching them get mauled, beaten and torched to death is easily one of the most cathartic endings to a film I’ve ever witnessed, and is up there with Tarantino’s best endings. Some have mistaken this ending as having a “right wing message” or “relying on Tarantino’s typical revenge plots,” but that’s just flat out wrong.

The film not only gives Sharon her proper legacy back, but it takes the Manson family’s legacy away, and spits in the face of anyone who might have an ounce of sympathy for them. It’s cathartic, it’s hilarious, and it’s incredibly satisfying. This film isn’t as much about revenge as it is about redemtion, and that’s what makes it so powerful to me. Besides being incredibly entertaining, it’s also emotional in every place it needs to be. It may not be my favorite Tarantino film, but objectively, it’s probably his best. It feels like an evolution from all of his previous work, while also feeling like a departure in the best way possible. 

It’s everything I wanted, and more. I don’t see another film this year topping this, at least for me. If you haven’t seen it, go right away. This is why we go to the movies.

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