Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★½

It’s fine? But all my enjoyment came from the excellent production design, inherently compelling actors, and the fun soundtrack. The first two hours of this are extremely episodic and meandering, which would probably be fine if Tarantino made this in the 90s. But the dialogue doesn’t pop anymore, a lot of scenes seem to have very little purpose other than to bask in late-60s era Hollywood, and there’s not much of a driving force behind anything. It’s clear that this is a film about the power of movies; the beauty that film can alter real life history to change it into a more satisfactory conclusion, the ability to preserve the life of a slain actress forever in celluloid, how they can inspire the young and replenish the old. It’s just that in-between these potentially interesting ideas is a lot of DiCaprio and Pitt and fucking around. DiCaprio and Pitt fucking around? Can never be bad. But I honestly expected a lot more from Tarantino’s penultimate(?) film, and one made at a time when this version of Hollywood is very much in the past. I expected this to be an anti-nostalgia film, with the backdrop is the Manson murders acting as a real-life reminder that everything in the past, even a star-driven Hollywood many look at with rose-tinted glasses, isn’t as great as we’d like to remember. Yet Tarantino instead indulges in the nostalgia, which isn’t necessarily wrong, but is probably the least interesting route he could have taken.

The final 40 minutes is a little better, sort of doing an Inglorious Basterds-type ending with the cinematic subversion of facts. And it kind of turns into a slasher film, which is cool. However there’s definitely something slightly strange about how the guy with the gun is a disposed of (brutally) in seconds, while the women get a prolonged, violent demise. Now these were real murderers who really killed a bunch of people, so there’s no reason to have sympathy for any of them, but the way the violence focused on the women was maybe a little questionable. It entered my mind as I was watching it anyway, I don’t know. Maybe Tarantino’s reputation preceded him.

In a strange way I can see myself returning to this because I like the world it exists in. The late-60s are rendered so well and it’s sort of a hangout film. I probably would have liked it more if it had eschewed the DiCaprio-on-set parts and just had him, Pitt and Robbie hanging out more or something. And maybe that lived-in 60s vibe is enough. Or maybe it’s just the same kind of empty nostalgic calories spoon-fed to us by studio-mandated remakes, glossed up in an auteur outfit.

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