Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★★★★

This is such an Old Man™ Novelistic© film. Tarantino spends 2.5 hours juxtaposing elements of his filmography against the forgettable kitsch of the late 60s in an attempt to ask the most existential question any artist can ask: "What if my work is meaningless?" This film has nothing to do with him as a person, but everything to do with his work itself. (Although I can definitely see a reading of this being about his relationship to #MeToo and Weinstein.)

I'm traditionally not a fan of Slow Cinema™, because I often feel that none of it adds up. This is a different case. Every scene that feels tangental takes up so much space that even if it plays no role in the plot, it literally has too much presence, and therefore can't be unnecessary. If you ripped these scenes out of the film, well, there wouldn't be a film; they are the film. Another argument I anticipate seeing is that this 'Has No Plot,' and, well, that's just inherently wrong. Everything has a plot, and just because the plot isn't at the forefront, it's still there, however abstractly its presentation. (I'd even argue that some of the most tangental scenes are actually what an MFA writing professor would call the 'key' to this plot.)

Moreover, the Manson connection is just fuckin' cool. Manson and The Family always fascinated me, and it's probably my favorite true crime story. I would've been on board no matter how this played out, because it was very respectful to Tate and Company. While it's also very [rightly] critical of the Family [and irony of Hippie Culture in general], I'd honestly say it's fairly respectful to them, too, contextualizing it within the real problem - monoculture.

Again, this is an Old Man™ film. It's nostalgic, but not romantic. I think someone without true nostalgia for a past might mistake all this as romanticism, but to me, it just felt like existential longing. Longing for time slipped by. Longing for what could've been, and what should've been. But a huge part of nostalgia is also knowing that the past led to progress, and progress is often good, although it also means some things had to be sacrificed. It's a catch-22.

Every character here is experiencing their own catch-22 dilemma. The great thing is all of their personal dilemmas are meaningless, in the grand scheme of things. Just like Tarantino's own existential dilemma of contemplating his worth in cinematic history. Mixed with the fact that Tarantino is a master of the craft, and brings out some of the best performances of the main billing's respective careers, I can't help but think this is as close to a second masterpiece as Tarantino will ever get. (This is supported by the fact that most of the self-referential elements are tied to his first masterpiece, Inglorious Basterds.)

This isn't for everyone, and its marketing is doing it a great injustice. I don't think this is going to speak to most people. I don't even think I'm supposed to truly relate to this for at least another 25 years. This is twilight cinema, and it's a slow burn. But shit, put this joint in a roach clip for me, and I'll burn it to the end. Maybe I'll even pair it with Inherent Vice next time.

Then again, maybe I just have a foot fetish.

Kyle liked these reviews