'Once Upon A Time In Hollywood'-The Best TV Rerun Ever Made
Like sharing an old television show on MeTV with your old man, "Once Upon A Time In Hollywood" is comfort food for the soul no matter what your age is. Marking itself as Quentin Tarantino's most personal film, QT makes us understand why he loves Hollywood in the first place. Inspired by Tarantino's childhood memories of riding in a car with his stepfather while playing the radio, we are transported to the swingin' 60s. A world filled with Cadillacs, roughly outlined cardboard ads, tacky indoor decorum, square-shaped larger than necessary drinking glasses, and cigarette commercials aimed at satisfying audiences of all ages. If you are one of the lucky theatres in the United States that screens this film in 70mm print it is a near necessity to enjoy the movie in its proper format. Tarantino's longtime DP, Robert Richardson, paints a vivid world brimming with vibrant oranges, pinks, yellows, and greens, that are reminiscent of cinema's technicolor roots that to this day supersedes today's artificial washed-out digital world. Tarantino has a nostalgia for the old Los Angeles as Martin Scorsese does for the former New York. Both are yearning for the past, unable to see what beauty (if any) there is in their hometown's present state.
At the heart of its nostalgia is Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) an aging former TV star along with with his friend Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), his stuntman/gofer. Rick's days of fame are outnumbering him which also would mean no work for Cliff. In the middle of the film's central story is the tale of the real-life tragic figure Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). Mrs. Tate is Rick's next-door neighbor whose husband may contain the key to Rick's much-needed comeback. As you may have guessed there's a prominent family we're all familiar with who's continually lurking in the background after our film's heroes. For those familiar with Mr. Tarantino's other works, the prominent unapologetic figure spares no expense in rewriting history to the audiences great pleasure. The theatre I saw the movie in was blistering with laughter and "OHs!" when the film reaches a much-needed earned climax that presented a delicious taste of closure the world wished it could have had.
The performances are wonderful. The bromance chemistry between Dicaprio and Pitt is infectious. This film plays much to Tarrantino's eye on spotting an actor's persona then projecting it into the film. Dicaprio (usually seen cross-armed in every interview) is the stern, severe type, always laser-focused on his task at hand. Pitt is a laid back former country boy that takes things in strides, going with the flow of events as they unfold. Yet his unusually calm demeanor suggests there may be some screws loose inside his head. Rick is the ying to Cliff's yang, making the two a symbiotic presence that is inseparable.
Regarding Margot Robbie's depiction of Sharon Tate, I disagree with much of the criticism citing that Mrs. Tate had too little to say. This picture is in no way trying to demean Mrs. Tate's likeliness nor intelligence. It's a celebration of her life. A celebration of the life she could have had if reality didn't end in such misfortune. "Once Upon A Time In Hollywood" isn't a film about the Manson family murders, as the killings serve as a backdrop to Tarantino's childhood. The Mansons are a representation of always being alert, keeping your eyes open for the impending dangers that life may present you as you grow up. What better way to reach maturity than in the genuinely immature way that only Tarantino can give us through revenge porn? Quentin Tarantino recognizes society's savagery but only celebrates it against those who deserve it. By those, I mean Nazis, racists, and serial killers. Violence may never be a solution, but we inherently know it feels good. Whatever you may think of him, his method of savagery against the savages is a just proposition never intended to cause harm; it only exists to entertain. The ones who argue otherwise are usually the ones who are violent themselves. For years Quentin Tarantino has bluntly told us "Hey, they're just movies. So have a good time." Unlike "Inglorious Basterds" and "Django Unchained," the entire point of the film doesn't rely on its third act blood bath. This time the camera is flipped towards the viewer, allowing us to enjoy the vengeance we always wanted but never received. The killing of The Manson's is not the story's main focus but merely a way for our heroes to reach a sense connection with one another.
"Once Upon A Time In Hollywood" is Quentin Tarantino's celebration of his youth and of his life's work that for the first time in a very long time doesn't feel self-indulgent. All of our favorite Tarantino dalliances are there, snappy dialogue, surprising cameos, fictitious products, foot fetish shots, extreme violence, cinephile callbacks, and nostalgia galore. If you took the Jack Rabbit Slim portion of "Pulp Fiction" and turned it into a whole movie, you'd get "Once Upon A Time In Hollywood." There is a middle act that stretches a bit too long with no purpose, but everything comes full circle, in the end, making the film's one glaring flaw only a passing afterthought in my overview. Thank God it does or else this film would have been incredibly distasteful. Where Quentin Tarantino goes from here is a mystery as it feels like he has played his greatest hits to the best of his abilities in the most impressive picture he has made since "Pulp Fiction."