Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★★½

We've long caught a whiff of indulgence when it comes to the (otherwise consistently excellent) Tarantino, but this is the first film to cross my line in the sand (LeQuint Dickey Mining Company aside). The amount of time dwelt upon Dalton's filmography is normally something I would enjoy, as well as the many in-film period references, however there is just something disagreeably unsubtle and unduly focused upon here which smeared my overall experience, disproportionately getting in the way of telling a reasonable story. I adore fake filmographies and bibliographies as much as the next person, but (save the flamethrower, Lee & odd other moment) they hold negligible bearing on the story, meriting little more than a fly-by poster (see the Spaghetti Westerns, that's more like it!). No Quentin, a flamethrower scene in an old nazi film does not warrant a return kill in the climax, nor does Lee's stunt-coaching of Tate warrant that (amiable enough but) extended Lee-Cliff flashback. And those are the ones that actually ultimately had some point! And whilst I have no issue whatsoever with revisionism in theory within a naturally flowing film such as this, there is the qualm of moving the home invasion next-door in order to escalate the carnage, dressed up in wholesome props like a comic-relief dog, dog food, Italian starlet and heroic Nazi-killing relics. Quentin wants to see specific things, and writes back from that. Exploitationist at heart.

Margot's phony enjoyment of The Wrecking Crew is Oscar-worthy (I'd rather the Manson family pay me an unexpected visit than sit through that tripe again in a cinema), whilst young Julia Butters manages to steal the film (her and Pitt the only chance at Oscar nominations). The Manson family ladies felt like a who's who of recognizable young-ish actresses which will appreciate in time. Herriman's mere minute of screen-time was an expected disappointment as a fan of the actor. I dug the end scene between DiCaprio & Hirsch, as in some roles (especially The Motel Life) Hirsch appears to be riffing on DiCaprio. The Justified nod including an almost McCallany-esque Olyphant was also enjoyable. Russell & Bell are used well. DiCaprio has the most difficult trust-your-director role in the untalented buffoon protagonist, and has a lot of fun with it.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is always swell, but it's never quite my period Hollywood. Give me stuff more along the likes of Pynchon, The Nice Guys and much of Quentin's own swinging sixties curation (many of which he consistently seemed to interpret with a lack of emotional intelligence compared to his co-host critic Kim who I often found more insightful than Quentin's more rote facts). Quentin's career remains uniformly strong, but this is his least successful film, I'd take Django and Death Proof over this thinly disguised self-indulgence. The exceptional quality exhibited in his first four films is now officially beyond his current capability, but I'd still happily watch another dozen of these.

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