This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
J J’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Death of an Era
is the way I would have described Once Upon a Time in Hollywood on the first viewing and even though that take isn't inherently inaccurate I think it's a very cynical way to look at this movie.
Memorial of an Era
is a more accurate way I would describe this film. OUATIH shows a time in Hollywood where big names could sell tickets consistently and the transition into a less personal era. It wasn't an instant transition but I think it's very poetic that a movie starring Leonardo Dicaprio, Brad Pitt and Margo Robbie came second in the box office to a film entirely composed of CGI animals. It shows how far we've come from that time.
OUATIH is very different than any film Tarantino has ever made and at the same time a return to form. On a technical level everything is water tight and expensive looking, that almost campy exploitative style of directing during his era from Kill Bill to Hateful Eight is nowhere to be seen (except maybe the ending). This film is very grounded, thoughtful and relies on the characters to drive the film instead of an overarching narrative.
I mentioned previously that the ending goes against the tone of the film but I think this is a pretty bold decision by Tarantino that he's done before in Inglorious Bastards but I think is even more jarring in this film because of the whiplash like tone switch at the end. In IB Tarantino dehumanizes Hitler by changing history and making his death very cartoonish and insensitive, the casual audience will say “who cares its Hitler” but a lot of critics of Tarantino say he uses it as an excuse to glorify violence in his films to the point where this serious subject matter is not analyzed with tact. In OUATIH he does the same with the Manson Murderers. They are brutalized in a way that's so ridiculous that people in the theatre were laughing and as I was watching I felt disturbed and happy seeing these people die in this messed up fashion. What I think is bold about Tarantinos decision to do this is that its a big personal fuck you to these horrible people. Yeah i'm going to disrespect Hitler to the highest degree he's a genocidal racist, yeah i'm going to disrespect the Manson Murderers they took Sharon Tate from us. Tarantino is being intentionally insensitive to these people and I think in OUATIH his point is even more effective than IB because of how reserved the rest of the movie is. Its a big fuck you to those evil people and its a big fuck you to anyone who thinks they deserve respect and to me that's bold and daring and I stand by the decision.
Anytime Sharon Tate’s name is brought up after her death its was always in a way that ties her gruesome murder to her legacy. Tarantino changes history and shows that she was more than that, she was a dedicated actor and beautiful human being that brought joy into everyone's life around her, that's how we should remember and that's her legacy. This film is a memorial to an era and Sharon Tate and it's a pleasure to view.