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.

Alright, so having slept on it-still some mixed feelings about the movie but I think everyone can agree the soundtrack at least is killer? There was one music cue in particular, very late in the film, that brought up ...odd resonances, given that it was a favorite childhood tune. Also, that use of Deep Purple makes up for BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE. On a level of craft, this thing is remarkable.

So, Three Things:

1) Coming in late, I'd more or less picked up the ending from the internet, that the Manson murders did not.........happen the way they did, historically. So I spent a fair bit of time puzzling out what was going to happen. Was DiCaprio and/or Pitt going to die instead in some sort of sacrifice? Was it going to be an Inglorious Basterds-style Manson Massacre? The end result was that maybe I didn't have the sense of dread in regards to Tate/Sebring et al, but it was interesting to see how they (and Polanski, and even McQueen) were used in this story as symbols of Tarantino's WHAT IF fantasy (all this stuff gets a little extra weird when you think about all his talk about Movie-verses and Real-verses and Mr Wolf walking between dimensions that he was giving out in the late '90s.)-I mean, Tate's clearly portrayed as some kind of weird luminous too-good-for-the-world persona, a Movie Star-fallen-to-earth rather than, maybe, an actor like Rick Dalton (maybe that's the difference), but it's also weird that it seemed like QT was implying that, if she lived, she would have maybe ditched Polanski and carrying on with Sebring. Saying 'I Wonder what Roman Polanski thinks of this film' feels.......uncomfortable to type, but there's a part of me that ain't but curious what he'd make of it.

What I wasn't necessarily prepared for, either, was how violent the uh, attempted-Manson-Murders were. Like eyebrow-raising carnageffery. It was interesting, if I can divorce my observations from the raw quality of watching a bleeding woman set ablaze or a man done having his crotch torn off by a pitbull, that this happened immediately AFTER the Manson Family decided they were going to 'kill the people who taught them to kill...television' (sort of a feud between the storytellers and the people accusing showbiz violence of influencing...well, them) and that, with my crowd, there was strong laughter (mirroring the Tate-in-a-theater scene, maybe?) at the Pitt-and-company violence against hippies. Sort of wondering about Tarantino having his cake and eating it too.

1a) So many feet, in the foreground. Up against the glass. QT really went wild in general, this time around.

2) The thing about Rick and Cliff's relationship is that, despite being portrayed by two immensely charismatic and successful actors, they're not just guys who have failed at their dreams-they're both sort of ...gross sad sacks. Rick less so than Cliff, although he seems more insecure (leo's stutter in the scene with Pacino, and his reactions in the shooting sequence with Olyphant and Perry are some of the best work I can recall seeing him do, for real) and he obviously has substance problems. It's not ironic that Rick's relationship with Cliff is the one area where he is comfortable--what's interesting is that Cliff is portrayed for the first thirty minutes or so as a genuinely cool guy (Pitt's charisma makes it work) and it's not until the middle of the film that we get the information about him killing his wife, which is...portrayed ambiguously, but come on. Everybody saying 'it was just a flashback, it's unclear, it's about rumors' --that scene where Pitt starts LAUGHING while Tex is pointing the gun at him. (and what happens immediately after). Guy did it. And thinking about it, that seems central to the character-do his present actions (in the film) make up for what happened? When he rolls away in the ambulance, there's a kind of low-key redemption that QT seems to feel has happened there. Audiences may agree or disagree, but it's a film that says you're not the worst thing you've done, in 2019 which is...something.

2a) Speaking of worst thing, the Bruce Lee sequence that bookends that Cliff Booth flashback just feels....misjudged. I had heard about the fight of course, but what's really cringeworthy, if one is a Lee fan, is that whole monologue leading up to the fight. It just feels utterly bizarre and unfortunate.

3) Looking at this review, it might feel like I have a lot of misgivings about the film. And I do-but what's really INTERESTING is that despite those misgivings, as I got to the final scenes, this wave of...nostalgic sorrow kind of washed over me, the film hit my buttons despite all of those buttons, and that's a testament to its power, I think. That final exchange between Cliff and Rick, with the unspoken communication that Cliff basically saved Rick and his Wife's lives, the fact that the success Rick wanted so badly is going to be the thing that severs their partnership and ends their friendship--the fact that Rick gets to pass through the gates of a New Hollywood that never got the chance to exist, but (in this film) might---while Cliff might end up like Spahn, alone and dreaming of the past and watching TV on some decrepit property somewhere, feels like one of those 'get what you deserve, so watch out' type endings. Friendship is what made everything tolerable, and the friendships that keep you alive during the hard times don't always survive the good times. Especially when you're in a time and place and socialized to not have a lot of .... healthy forms of self-expression. And then added to that is the layer that this very much isn't real life, that the wistfulness is a response QT's trying to provoke in the audience with the credits rolling (Red Apple Cigarettes!) and the remembrance that the Manson Murders happened and Tate is dead. Dalton wasn't around, and the light went out.

The suggestion, I suppose, is that there are other lights that haven't gone out yet. Treasure 'em.

Jay D liked these reviews