Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★★★½

Well, this left me with such an unrelentingly big smile on my face, as most latter-day Tarantino has recently done — here he’s decidedly less cynical than he was with The Hateful Eight, playing a long, garden-pathed game that eventually taps into the comfortably unhinged mania of Calvin Candie’s house exploding or Hitler’s face getting blown away with a machine gun. You know QT is getting there, to the playful social make-believe rewrites, it’s only a matter of time... and it’s precisely that “matter of time” that’s the focus throughout. 

This is such a wonderfully told shaggy dog story that you begin to stray and meander like the film itself, in a way, forgetting that eventually, clearly, this story about 1969 Hollywood nostalgia is on a nasty little hippie-blood-lust trail with Sharon Tate’s real-life murder overshadowing the whole affair as the more obvious conclusion. But, red herrings are afoot, and as we get closer and closer to our fated finale, the story unfolds further and further, and Tarantino keeps writing and writing, like a teenage boy having the time of his life fantasizing about the world in which he lived as a 7-year-old, when his step-dad would drive the family around in the convertible listening to poppy hits on the radio that were bookended by commercials about the next episode of Mannix on CBS. With that world, for a boy, comes the eventual realization, as an adult, that it’s all just idealism. It would’ve been really easy for this film to wade into that morose pitfall of discovery — that our favorite movie stars bleed red just like we do and that it’s up to the nastiness of the world to prove it to us with a knife — but Once Upon a Time in Hollywood has just a little more to say than that. It presupposes all the above and then asks, “What’s the point in living in a world like that, when you don’t have to?” 

We take a different road in the end and it’s one that’s fantastically fantastical, chaotically bloody, and universally justified with the way it tailors a big ol' valentine for Hollywood and for filmmaking in general. The bad guys lose and it’s all okay in the end. I think the world desperately needs a story like this, at least for now.

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