Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★★

Hard not to vibe to this for a while: the effortless banter between Pitt and DiCaprio; the layered conversation with Al Pacino, with its punchy edits; the sheer sensation of the period recreation, all texture and movement and well-placed needle-drops (e.g. the sharp "Mrs. Robinson" cue); and especially the first party that Margot Robbie's Sharon Tate goes to, with Damian Lewis' "Let me tell you a story...", which is a succinct an expression of Tarantino's ethos as any (i.e. that his films are their digressions and delays and endless palaver). But a lavish recreation of the Hollywood that served as a kind of foundational myth for a young Tarantino does not, to me, seem like the most productive milieu for a postmodern stylist, in part because his films already interact with his—and our—awareness of the period through their plays with genre conventions, audience expectations, the general apparatus of pop culture, etc. Seeing the spectacle of this era's decline rendered with Tarantino's typically virtuosic craftsmanship, while pleasurable, feels in some ways redundant, and makes for an occasionally rather inert experience. (That's including the Tate/Robbie scene at the theatre watching The Wrecking Crew, and already discounting the big cringe during the Bruce Lee scene—which... you're all okay with that one?) Might give this another go, if only to again grapple with the finale, which didn't really go over well, but eventually manages a kind of mournful sting.

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