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.

Clearly Tarantino likes happy endings.

And honestly, as I grow older, so do I. So I have absolutely no problem with the way this film plays out. Tarantino revisionist tendencies have never been so welcome. Knowing about the Manson murders, knowing that this was taking place in the era of the Manson murders, with Sharon Tate as a main character I originally didn't want to see the film. But I shouldn't have worried. Tarantino isn't making a true crime picture. That's not what this is about at all.

This is as close to an elegy as Tarantino will ever get. There are no exploding heads here (okay maybe one or two are crushed), but the low body count isn't a fault. This is a movie full of reflection about growing old, about the fear of becoming obsolete, about wishing for halcyon days. Those of you complaining that nothing happens in the film, well, so what. It is shot beautifully and there are many moments where people just act like people. They drive, smoke, pack, have slight conversations, cry.

This is a revenge picture. Avenging a horrific real life event by applying vengeance in make believe. Because it's all we can do. For Tarantino and many others this may be the catharsis they need. The lead up to the end scene (basically from the ranch scene onward) is full of suspense until it isn't. When the Mason-ites go down the other path and you realize that Cliff and Rick are at the end of that path the tension breaks. And, I'm slightly ashamed to say, the fun begins.

No doubt the film's problematic when you look at it from certain angles. Cliff, one of our heroes, is possibly a wife-murderer (points to Tarantino for leaving it open to interpretation, thereby conflicting viewers, this one included, as to how they feel about him). Cliff's possible past is an open secret and given that that phrase has been applied to Harvey Weinstein's behavior I have to think that there has to be a deeper reading needed here. Should we long for a world where people like Cliff and their open secrets were tolerated? Then again Cliff is also the one lead character that's carted away at the end, disregarded and forgotten. There are other things too. The treatment of Bruce Lee. The hatred of hippies (and not just the murderous kind). There's a regressive feeling to the film. But it's not as oppressive as say a S. Craig Zahler movie. Maybe because Tarantino feels more affection for his material. He loves his characters. And he loves Tate the most.

Margot Robbie is great here, and without her, or at least without Tate this movie would feel empty. She may not have as many lines as her co-stars, but she is arguably the most important person on the screen. She may personify innocence too much at times, but Tarantino rarely does things by halves.

And here's my favorite thing about the picture: Tarantino kept Tate in the old footage. Moments after placing DiCaprio in The Great Escape he decided to keep Tate in the original footage of The Wrecking Crew. Watching Robbie as Tate watch the actual Tate on screen is an immensely satisfying moment.

I'm sure Hollywood would have changed regardless of the murders or not. Tarantino just decided to give us the fairy tale where Sharon Tate lived.

I'm ok with that.

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