Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★★★

On my first viewing of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, I was hoping for, expecting, and looking forward to a certain kind of movie, as a result of it being a Tarantino. It ended up being far from what I expected, and as a result I felt like I was waiting for a hammer to drop the whole time that I never really got (until very briefly at the end). I felt like things sorta meandered and the direction wasn’t entirely clear to me. 

I now attribute that reaction to me failing to make it to the first scene on time — on a rewatch (where I still missed most of the opening credits), I found some really crucial framing devices that colored my perception of the rest of the film. The first ten minutes have a lot going on that prime you to be looking for certain things, and for me that went a long way towards my enjoyment and understanding of the movie. The second time around I was also able to appreciate the subtleties that are meant to communicate a more complete understanding of the character’s arc. Something as small as the way certain characters drive through Los Angeles, what areas they know well, and what they choose to listen to on the radio will tell you a lot about their personality, and that’s what all that “meandering” derail is there for. 

This time around I appreciated the way this movie plays with time, most notably during a 10-minute flashback that plays out as just a moment in real-time. Two hours is spent on one day, from three different perspectives. I know that from my first watch and not my second, though — I succeeded in not looking at my phone during the entire movie, instead, appreciating its hypnotic effect. There have been rumblings of a Netflix miniseries recut a la Hateful Eight’s recent re-release, and I would be interested in how these stories would get told with more time. I think there’s a lot you could do there that would be fascinating.

Looking back, a big part of me feels like a lot of why I didn’t like this on the first go-round is because I had this really specific, hyped-up idea of what a “Tarantino Manson movie” would or should be like. This time around I appreciated the movie for what it is — a feel-good buddy comedy about making movies, a lucid dream about a world we could have lived in. It’s still not my favorite of his movies, but on the second watch it’s definitely better than the worst thing he's ever made.

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