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.

The writing is as fine as you might expect of any Tarantino project, but refreshingly free of reference-loaded, wisecracking dialogue. A rediscovered maturity and interest in personalities moulded by their environment and how they move through those spaces, in place of the need to show off.

If ...Hollywood breathes so differently from the other QT films of recent vintage, it's because the editing is most reminiscent of Jackie Brown 's effortless observation of weary protagonists trying to work the angles in a daily grind presenting precious few opportunities. Like that film, there’s an of-their-time-and-a-little-behind-the-present period specificity to character, backed up by an astounding level of recreation that ultimately transcends the time-travel nostalgia trip ...Hollywood ostensibly represents for its maker, allowing the audience to atmospherically soak in all the vibes at a cultural turning point that closes out the '60s.

...Hollywood is also Tarantino's most personal work since Jackie Brown . Again and again, there's something so touching about watching actors playing actors who exert themselves fully, and no matter how crappy the project, movie or TV show, they're seen trying to better themselves through artistic pursuits by diving deep into their craft. Whenever we see the movies within movies, visually they stand out as the most grandiloquently sweeping sequences, an effect which serves to ennoble the performers in them. To this end, the movie's masterstroke is the great Robert Richardson's cinematography, suddenly re-imagining a rinky-dink backlot, weekly western TV show as a masterwork by John Ford or Budd Boetticher.

I love how DiCaprio is playing a dinosaur actor who doesn't know how to diva. Nobody buys into his self-important pomposity—most of all himself—and in real life, his stuntman/best friend/dogsbody on whom he is entirely co-dependant, embodies all the emblematic cool that he can't pull off on screen. Beneath the dudeism of Brad Pitt's shades though, lurks a troubling and easily identifiable coiled violence, teased and hinted at throughout, then finally given an outlet/excuse to explode in the final scenes of home invasion by members of the Manson family.

For Tarantino, this is a violence of vengeance; re-writing an atrocity of Hollywood history, and in in the fashion of the fairytale intoned by the title, saving one its victims. Sharon Tate surviving but no longer being seen after these events and heard only as a disembodied voice, serves as Tarantino's melancholic acknowledgement of the fairytale un-reality of his ending, just as his acknowledgement of the potential for extreme violence in the dark hearts of all men, (that is meted out most savagely on a woman) complicatedly robs Brad Pitt's repulsion of the brainwashed cult members of any celebratory catharsis. This uneasy tension was perhaps subconsciously expressed by all the awkwardly disbelieving laughter that accompanied the sequence in my screening.

For the first time in a long time, Tarantino has given us something to wrestle with, and problematic characters that we still find ourselves caring about, which is so much more satisfying than watching a master mixologist continually re-working and re-contextualising all his obscure pop culture influences with little to no accompanying thematic or social commentary.

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