Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★★★★

Much too complicated to unwrap in a mere paragraph and too dynamic to comprehend after one viewing; Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is an ode to the golden age of Tinseltown and the western genre. Specifically, it's Tarantino messing around with how older western flicks would play with history and mold disaster and suffering into something that could serve an antihero's arc, akin to sticking a bow on an open wound. Farce, fantasy and fact all exist together in this world; there's a really interesting clash between clear-eyed realism and nostalgic fantasy that plays out in the lives of Rick, Cliff and Sharon. All are observed in wildly different arcs, but there's a similar sort of somber melancholy in how each are looking down some barrel that predicts a demise; whether it's being aged out of the spotlight, pushed out of the industry or...something a little more abstract and horrifying. Tate is seen as a clear counter to Dalton. She's the embodiment of the optimism of Hollywood; mostly seen lost in a song, sneaking into her own movie to appreciate audience reactions and generally just being beautiful and happy. Dalton is a fading hero; a man unraveling as the stardom he once enjoyed slips from his fingers.

I can only hope this marks the beginning of an "old man Tarantino" phase, because this feels like a major bit of change for him. This isn't the bad-boy Tarantino of the 90's, or the controversial Tarantino of the 2000's. The only segment that resembles those phases is the ending, which will surely divide audiences harshly (for the record, I'm fascinated by it). Tarantino is absolutely reflected in Dalton to some point; still very much in love with the movies but just a little fed up with the industry. But more than this, inside everything is a meaningful meditation on aging; on our longing to take the horrible, most agonizing pains of this world and re-imagine them as something in a classic hero's story. To take the inevitability of an infamous tragedy and pretend it unfolded, instead, as a fantasy in which innocence is protected, masculinity prevails above all and dreams ultimately come true. I'm positive I'm tapping into only a small part of this film; but that's the best part. It's dynamic, it's challenging and it's ambitious as hell; a genuinely layered and considered work that offers itself up to the arena of public discourse with enthusiasm and indifference. A movie that demands discussion in the movie theater parking lot, and inspires no shortage of hills to stand on for both it's detractors and disciples. Count me among the disciples.

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