Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Quentin Tarantino's latest, Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, may not be his slickest or meanest but is definitely his strangest, thus far.

Tarantino gets his politics totally wrong in this one. The revisionism he so loves to do with his real-life worlds again plays out in a manner that will be heavily polarizing for its viewers. Problematic as it is, the biggest controversy surrounding this movie shouldn't be the Bruce Lee scenes but the very hippy-bashing that Tarantino ignorantly subscribes to. There is a certain apolitical-yet-political voice attached to this attack. No amount of cold callback to the Vietnam War in the background makes up for this failure of his to see the totality of 1969, inspite of his best efforts. This epoch that he romanticizes with a touch of cinematic and literary irony is beautifully recreated with the showmanship that he is known for; you get production value, scene choreography and actors that are the stuff of dreams. Yet, such is this time capsule that it's very essence is in its love for, not cinema, but a specific kind of cinema. Nostalgia for, not an era, but a specific subculture of this era.

The excesses of the provacative Hollywood auteur is unapologetically out-there, this time. As if he was getting paid each time he reminded his audience of the brains behind the scenes, all his signature moves come out in full display. This is not a man at the height of his powers but someone who, much like the central character of Rick Dalton (a tricky role played superbly by Leonardo DiCaprio, thereby justifying his short hiatus from acting), is desperately crying for the kind of attention he once enjoyed. So, those "signature moves", from the cringeworthy foot fetish to the outlandish violence and rambunctious dialogues, all turn into a collage of self-parody. Unintentionally, of course.

While Tarantino never ever claimed to be a philosophical savant with his filmography, his irreverence in previous works came from a place of rebellious excitement and genuine adoration for the movies. In Once Upon a Time..., you see a film that has more to do with self-love and exploitative, soliloquist entertainment than any kind of historical fantasy; the fact that it insensitively rewrites the Sharon Tate murder only makes it worse than it already is.

Whatever you mistake for metaphysical in Once Upon a Time..., is a skewed sense of that experience which stops being one the very moment the filmmaker pleads with you to notice it, which is not more than a few minutes into the movie. The indulgence like there's no tomorrow hurts the soul of the movie, if it has one. Of course, this indulgence is the very thing that makes or breaks his films and the superstar director very well knows it. Only, he knows it too well to the point of over-consciousness.

The likelihood of one not coming across a modern Hollywood movie that is more inseparable from its creator than this, all said and done, makes it absolutely irresistible and an immediate conversation-starter. That, perhaps, begs the question. Do you want your movie to be just good or to be remembered for years to come?

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