Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★★★

By around the end of the first quarter I was thinking I didn’t like this much, it was dragging but as it went on (and on) I was glad for the luxury of all that screen time to settle in with the characters. My favourite performance is Leonardo’s and in my mind he is now amongst the best of the best. Margot Robbie’s screen time was enough for me to get to know this version of Sharon Tate, who was definitely endearing. It would have been a mistake to have much more of her because she’s symbolic. To make it too much about the real woman in this particular film would have been in bad taste and completely changed the message. It’s already skirting on the edges of bad taste as it is.

The audience at the sold-out 35mm screening I was at showed very little appreciation, but audiences in Australia are generally subdued. Still, it could have been because the humour was quite mild. By far the biggest laugh was for the little girl (Julia Butters). Afterwards someone near me had to explain to her friend that the Sharon Tate plot had a historical background and I wonder how many people didn’t realise that and how it affected their viewing considering that all the dramatic tension comes from it. I’m sure there were things I missed too because the film is loaded with era references. It would have been fun to have a bit more of Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth making the Spaghetti Westerns.

Something that impressed me was how the long scenes with Rick acting didn’t show the crew or equipment and it was easy to get fully drawn into his movie and then when he fluffed his lines it was almost a shock to come back to the “real” world. The playing around with movies versus reality in general is clever.

The portrayal of the friendship between Rick and Cliff is convincing and highlights how the accolades and money go to the visible, i.e. the actors. Cliff is just as talented as Rick, if not more so.

But Cliff killed his wife! Although I don’t think the violence at the end shows misogyny, it does baffle me that we’re meant to accept this fact about Cliff who until that point is such a sympathetic and even honourable character and remains so after the scene on the boat. Why was it in the script and what is Tarantino trying to say? If you've seen an interview where this is explained please let me know. We don't actually see him do it, so maybe we're meant to think about the damage that unproven rumours can have on someone's life and career. So it's possibly a veiled comment on the Me Too movment. Muddy...

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