Amy Holmes’s review published on Letterboxd:
I came straight home and wrote a few pages of notes about this one, so I’ve got some stuff to say.
QT has made a career out of using movies and genres from the past and making something new out of them. But I think this is his first movie that’s actually *about* those things from the past. It’s an entire movie about things that are gone, and it feels like the Tarantinoiest movie he’s ever made. All those shots of old technology and references to film stock. It’s a cinephile heartache on screen.
It’s compellingly strange that he made this super nostalgic movie about a moment in Hollywood that I’d say is not often depicted with nostalgia. The studio system was basically dead, the big studios were turning out garbage, and the New Hollywood movement was about to explode, and eventually create an American independent cinema that gave rise to QT himself and filmmakers like him. It’s this precise hippie, counterculture, Dennis Hopper movement that Once Upon a Time’s heroes disparage that created Tarantino. So it’s sort of pleasantly bewildering to see these aging cowboys held up as the keepers of some kind of cinematic or artistic truth, or at least as the badasses that are going to keep the psychopaths at bay. Maybe QT recognizes that his own era is coming to an end? He clearly identifies on some level with his two heroes, and figuring out why is confusing. I like it.
Watching this movie I picked up on two things that aren’t in most other QT movies: sadness and love. The sense of melancholy that runs through this is startling and beautiful and was my favorite thing about it. Well, that and all the scenes of people driving around listening to the radio, which I could have watched forever. And the love between Rick and Cliff is sincere and untarnished in a way that his characters don’t usually show. It’s sweet, which makes it stand out from his other movies in a big way. Maybe it’s almost mature?
The cast—perfect. Maybe my favorite Leo role ever. Melancholy really suits him. And I loved seeing an unrecognizable Dakota Fanning (that was her??) and my beloved Costa Ronin from The Americans. All the daughters of movie stars playing the Manson family. LOVE it.
One more thought: there sure were a lot of gross dirty feet on screen for a supposed foot fetishist director.
I’d dock a few points for the return to revisionist revenge fantasy in the ending, same as in his other recent movies. Is this just what he does now? The ending felt a little too samey, gratifying as it was.
I’d love to see this in a double feature with Mulholland Drive, as the Hollywood Will Kill You But You Love It Anyway double bill. It also reminded me of QT’s own Death Proof, except in this one the stuntman is the (flawed but loveable) hero. The psychos might seem like they’re going to get away with it after an extended set piece in which they menace (and/or kill) our heroes, but after much violence, righteousness prevails.