I liked Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. I was entertained the whole time, although I also definitely felt its length. Quentin Tarantino does his slow burn thing, and I’m not sure it ultimately means anything, but it’s still entertaining to see A-list actors doing his dialogue.
It’s the bromance between has been TV cowboy Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stuntman Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), who is now essentially his P.A. Rick lives next door to Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie).
Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate provided by CTMG/Sony
So it’s sort of about culture in which she became embroiled. It’s also about the Charles Manson cult which history tells us tragically intersected with Tate.
But really, like all Quentin Tarantino movies, it’s about Tarantino’s love of movies. He sure sets the mood of ‘60s Hollywood. Tarantino’s creations mingle with real and fake actors, movies and TV shows as characters, both real and made up, wax philosophical about relationships and careers.
It’s clear Tarantino loves old Hollywood. You need only listen to any interview with him and he’ll drop obscure references, about all of which he’s equally passionate.
He also has fun with old Hollywood, mocking the style of dialogue, performance and filming. We can laugh at how seriously Rick takes it but it’s not mean. I think Tarantino’s attitude is always, “Can you believe it was like this? Wasn’t it great?”
There’s a scene that may be mocking Bruce Lee, but it’s probably good to knock our heroes down from their pedestals. I don’t think the director of a movie as inspired by Hong Kong martial arts as Kill Bill means any disrespect towards Bruce Lee.
Plus, of course Tarantino thinks Cliff Booth is more badass than Bruce Lee. If Cliff Booth ever existed, he would be.
When Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood explodes into Tarantino violence, it feels especially brutal. Cliff and Rick maybe take a little bit too much glee in self-defense. There’s a point where the antagonists are disarmed and they just keep going.
I guess now I know where my line is. Shooting Hitler and Goebbels in the face is okay. These attackers aren’t Nazis but they’re still pretty bad, but what they get felt like too much.
The production design will probably get a lot of attention for its historical detail, but it especially impressed me in sets that tell a whole story. The cluttered design of a hippie compound tells a whole story of the filth in which those hippies live. You can imagine how every piece of trash got there, and why it hasn’t been cleaned up.
Tarantino himself referred to his Jackie Brown as a hang out movie where you watch it just to hang out with the characters. Jackie Brown still has a plot that resolves in the end. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood may only be a hangout movie.
It’s not really about Rick’s career. It’s not really about the Manson family or Sharon Tate. But if you like these characters you’ve got over two and a half hours to spend with them. I think it mostly works but I’ll have to see how I feel about it next time.
Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood is in theaters Friday, July 26.
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