Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★★★½

Hey I actually saw something at the theaters while everyone's talking about it. Can't wait for that to happen again in about 3 years.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is not so much a love letter to the 60's as many critics have called it (although it's by no means a wrong assessment), but rather an attempt to recreate everything that makes the era that was New Hollywood as vital and lively as it was, to understand what it was that made this point in time and place a dreamland, all while utilizing the magic of movies in both a tribute and as a thematic centerpiece. It's presentation is very laid-back, some even calling it more of a "hangout" movie that strips down the Tarantino style a la Jackie Brown, but in an environment that the director feels much more confident in, and thus able to bring out more of its potential, seamlessly blending his fictional characters with the big names of Hollywood like Sharon Tate or Lancer's Wayne Maunder. It is a culmination of everything the director has done by this point, in a mature and intelligent way that, at the very least, rivals his best. This is Tarantino's Twin Peaks: The Return, a chapter that, even with the possibility of more, I would not be opposed in being the final one.

Right off the bat, I have to feel compelled in saying this will likely divide some people in the way this film is presented. As mentioned above, the film deliberately takes its time and basks in the culture, being unafraid to show off footage of Rick Dalton's career like Bounty Law of the past or the on-set footage of Lancer, as well as jumping from plotline to plotline, cycling through a sprawling cast of famous figures. It's a microcosm of the Hollywood life and ideals, a character study in how these actors spend their everyday lives in a insightful method that in its passage of time, long takes, and precise editing really allows us modern moviegoers to not just watch, but loses ourselves into this fleshed-out world (this is most prevalent in the film's second day, the longest chunk of the film). It's an intimate setting that has the threat of Charles Manson and his family bubbling under, something the film makes a point to not fixate on until the fateful night of August 8th, 1969 rolls by.

Leonardo Dicaprio manages to perfectly shed his image of the biggest leading man today to play a fading star going through a crisis and battling some serious manic-depressive issues. Rick Dalton is an actor who can perfectly hold his own in Westerns and guest appearances, but outside the camera shows a tendency to stutter, proving his skills as just an impressive facade, and an alcoholic problem that is a root towards his flaws, in a way that completely removes the cool and tough vibe the public normally associates with Tarantino's characters. Margot Robbie also manages to perform Sharon Tate in such a way that when we see her we momentarily forget the actress as a victim and more an up-and-coming star, and represents the beauty and innocence of Hollywood 1969 in a way that shows her as a symbol of light in a world that would soon be approached with a dark shadow. The scenes with Tate watching The Wrecking Crew is a poignant example of not only this beauty, but also the power of movies that Tarantino truly holds, in that we see her enjoying the movie she stars in and enjoying the fact that she is making the audience laugh and be happy. For the 105 minutes that she watches her movie, she is just a person, shed of any pretensions of being an actress, and is part of that community experience that makes the movies as special an occasion as it is.

There's plenty of things to mull over Once Upon a Time in Hollywood that I gloss over because I want to try to keep you, the reader, in consideration whether you may or may not have seen the film but are eager in reading people's thoughts on it, but also because the film is such an odyssey bursting with little details, moments that seem inconsequential unless considered as part of the whole, and set-ups and switches that show a level of impressive subversion only a person with enough experience like Tarantino could perform. The title not only alludes to Segio Leone's two most important works, but also the fantasy of not only being in this bygone era, but also through the eyes of the fictional and real characters with just as much importance. It's the perfect film for Tarantino, not only for its subject matter on moviemaking, but also for the love and struggle that comes with it, and this may honestly be his best film because of it.

Block or Report

louferrigno liked these reviews