Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★★★

Here are some thoughts in list form [updated]:

- The soundtrack
- The production values
- The wandering/winding path and pace - which is surprising because I am always saying this or that film should be shorter, needs a tighter edit, etc... Sure, there were a few too many driving (and feet -_-) scenes, but I actually like how the slow pace works to immerse us in that period and that place until we're almost relaxed (rather unusual for a Tarantino film), before the final act.
- Leonardo DiCaprio's performance - I am not a big Leo fan, but here he's truly wonderful. Vulnerable. Desperate. A Norma Desmond character for the late 60s, played with equal parts humour and pathos. I'm not sure I've ever liked him better in a role. Kudos!
- Brad Pitt's moccasins

- He's been obsessed with it forever, but this might be Tarantino's most clever use of the Western genre. Here, it's emblematic of the dying West, the violent death of the West to be precise; by using the Western genre to weave together old Hollywood and Manson - "Tex" Watson riding his horse; Rick Dalton riding his horse; murder for murder - it's made really clear that the West(ern) is dead. How the director feels about that death is another matter, and more problematic (obviously the film is nostalgia served on a Tarantino plate), but it's nonetheless a very clever interweaving of history, Hollywood, and the old (dying...dead) West.

On the fence:
- Cliff Booth. He's a gopher. But loyal friend. He may've killed his wife? But won't sleep with teenagers. He's always ready to work. But obviously poor? He's a loner. But always around. He's sometimes hilarious (when the acid cigarette hits). But always violent.
- Manson narrative: revisionist history is a Tarantino trope & yields many possible interpretations. First, it's worth noting that Tarantino has done his research: from what I've seen & read on Manson (a lot) it's accurate in the dumpster diving, songs, relationship between Manson women & George Spahn, the family consisting of mostly women, the locations, and so on. There's a caricature element to how it's portrayed but that's consistent with all the characters in the film. They almost all veer towards parody. On the one hand, it's kind of refreshing to see the hippie movement portrayed with some disdain since women (above all) did not fare well in the "free love" scene. In addition, a revenge fantasy enacted on the Manson family is comeuppance we enjoy. But on the other hand, what is Tarantino saying about the youth of today through his portrayal of the Manson cult? Notice who he casts to play them (young Hollywood actors, many nepo babies ;)). Is he saying today's youth are like Manson kids: cult like? Hive minded? Hmmm...
- Sharon Tate's portrayal: A lot of people have commented on this; I am torn. Part of me feels like she's given life, radiating happiness, pride and joy. And I liked that about her. She also kicks some ass in the movie flashback, which is interwoven with Bruce Lee lessons. But she's not given any depth, and that's a wasted opportunity. If Rick Dalton is the beating heart of the film, she's the sun that everything revolves around, including the encroaching darkness. She's not a victim. She's an actress who had a whole life, and we deserve to see that fleshed out a little more. Imagine how this film would have been lifted if Sharon Tate, too, were given the complexity and richness of Rick Dalton.

- Where is Charles Manson? He's hardly in the film. As the mastermind behind the murders he shouldn't get off so lightly. We see him just once when he's looking for Melcher. Why wasn't there a scene between Manson & Cliff Booth? It felt like the story was building up to that, especially when Cliff visits Spahn Ranch. Both men work behind the scenes, both are prone to violence, and both are able to manipulate the minds of others. Perhaps Tarantino missed an opportunity here too.

But that's a fairy tale for another time.

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