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.

La La Land for people who sit next to me in the theater and advertise that they know what a jump cut is.


D. Lynch is an exponentially better filmmaker than Q. Tarantino. For, unlike Tarantino, D. Lynch knows that an act of violence in an American film has, through repetition and desensitization, lost the ability to refer to anything but itself.

The trailer for Mulholland Drive played before the feature at my venue. I can easily forgive the kids on either side of me: frat bros and their blueheaded girlfriend, and two film school students, all of whom had come to see Tarantino's latest projected in 35mm, for not responding at all to Lynch's movie but softly chuckling at almost everything that might've been a reference in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Mulholland Drive is a film that never ultimately added up to anything for me, but the one in question, though most of its scenes and constituent parts are entertaining, adds up to far less. It's Tarantino's fifth successive attempt at finally proving that style isn't substance and parts don't necessarily equal a whole. I can forgive even this, and Tarantino's being allowed to work this far into his retirement, but I can't really forgive the navel gazing apparatus that funds this kind of patronizing autofellatio because they suck so bad.

David Wallace's critique of Tarantino isn't even accurate in my opinion, because the latter never wanted to refer to anything outside of film, at least until a year after the former's suicide. Violence in Tarantino's early work always punctuated the narrative, but was never its raison d'etre, at least until the inverse was directly stated by David Carradine at the end of Kill Bill, Vol. 2. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood teases you along a two and a half hour onanist meditation and test of patience on westerns, obsolescence, Hollywood and death with a brutal murder you know is coming, and then subverts that for... well, something.

All the development of Tex and the Manson harem is ultimately owed to popular mythology and nondiegetic sources, which wouldn't be lazy writing if said mythoi were used in the service of anything, but they aren't. There's a moment when Sadie Atkins postulates that Hollywood producers are responsible for teaching children to be violent. Perhaps this is a commentary on objections to fake movie violence being in fact projections, with which I wouldn't argue even as I type this. Filmmakers are obviously not responsible for real world violence, only violence against film, which from a professional and artistic standpoint is almost as bad.

Of course maybe it might be shocking when all the fake violence becomes "real" violence, i.e. becomes a tabloid headline. The Manson murders were so obviously stupid and meaningless, but the central thesis: that they wouldn't have happened in an alternate universe, is even more stupid and meaningless, but then that is just the point I suppose. For all their vacuousness, Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained didn't revise their respective atrocities from the history books, and at least invited catharsis for the victims of said atrocities. It is unclear for whom exactly this film is meant to be cathartic, because everyone is already dead.

The kids beside me who didn't respond to Mulholland Drive found plenty in the climax here to be excited about. I remember laughing uncomfortably in displacement activity at Death Proof and Inglorious Basterds when I was fourteen, but in my twenties I am only uncomfortable because I'm a pussy I guess. We're meant to dislike Rex, Sadie and Katie because in real life they enacted the pointless murder of Sharon Tate and company, but there's no reason to feel anything about them here, maybe pity; and sympathy for Tate because she was a "normie." This is ultimately the central conflict in this film, between losers and normies: those for whom existence is validated by fame and those for whom it is validated by infamy, with Tarantino somewhere in the middle sucking all the actresses' toes.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs was a similarly long and boring expose on the same subjects, and because this is more competently directed and entertaining I wanted to at least say it was better, but I can't. The Jack Rabbit Slims scene in Pulp Fiction is so powerful partially because it doesn't lay claim to actuality. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood doesn't really lay claim to actuality but only because it doesn't really lay claim to anything. It exists on the strength of a brand and the talent of its cast and crew, but absolutely nothing else. In my opinion this should be a cordial invitation for both the film in question and its entire subject to bow out gracefully and usher in a new wave, but that would take an earthquake.

TL;DR: Wow! It's fucking nothing.

disneydreamdiary liked these reviews