Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★★★½

I think this is one of Tarantino's best films and hope that its stature grows in time. It's a very unique film in his catalogue. It feels like an amalgamation of all of his movies and something of a departure at the same time. It's a revisionist period piece like "Inglourious," "Django" or "Hateful Eight," taking place over a short period of time (for most of the film) in the streets of LA like "Reservoir Dogs," "Pulp Fiction" or "Jackie Brown" with a frenetic, genre-mashup style like "Kill Bill." In tone, the movie switches between drama, horror, comedy, thriller, and action all while having a very mellow sensibility like "Jackie Brown." For years, Tarantino has been talking about how much he loves "hangout films," where you feel like you're having a blast hanging out with the main characters for a few hours. I think he's accomplished that here.

Critics argue that the movie has no point, and I strongly disagree. To me, it's clearly a film about a man reflecting on his career and whether it will mean anything to future generations as his relevance starts to fade. In the film, that man is DiCaprio's Rick Dalton, but in reality it's Tarantino himself. The self-referential style of the film, in addition to clear references to "Inglourious," and his Westerns are dead giveaways.

Now it's clear that the film is about Dalton/Tarantino questioning the impact of his work on future generations, but what is the point? There are two main groups of young people in the film: the Tate/Polanski New Hollywood hipsters and the Manson family. At the start, Dalton thinks they're all ungrateful, arrogant hippies and has a general hatred towards young startups. Dalton hilariously breaks down and then connects with a young girl, later gaining her respect. His more adventurous partner, Cliff Booth (Pitt) tries to relive his youth with a promiscuous hippie from the Manson family and ends up spooked by the freakish youngsters. Eventually, breaking with reality, the Manson family hippies decide to attack the old Hollywood, "fascist" Dalton because, ironically, his films promote violence, a criticism often lobbed at Tarantino. The hippies are promptly delivered one of the most brutal and hilarious ass whoopings in film history. It really has to be seen to be believed. I couldn't help but think this was Tarantino's way of taking out some of his pent-up animosity towards his holier-than-thou critics. In the end, the Tate/Polanski hipsters meet Dalton and tell them how much they love and respect his films. I think Tarantino is saying that one's life work and legacy is out of their hands once all is said and done. Some will love it, some will hate it. Some will remember and cherish your work, others will claim it "promoted violence." His conclusion: fuck the haters (in the strongest possible sense), and don't discount the impact you can have on future generations.

I think the subtext of Tarantino's films will be appreciated over time. Currently his work is mostly considered meaningless entertainment, but I disagree. I think this film will be considered as one of his more thematically rich in retrospect.