Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★★★★

I feel it is my civic duty to tell everyone the following: if you haven’t seen this yet, I encourage you to brush up on the Cielo Drive/Tate murder(s). Wikipedia has a pretty thorough write-up. The details are horrific and depressing, but if you’ve got the stomach for a brief history briefing, I think it will maximize your experience of this movie. I did it, and it made the payoff extraordinary.

PSAs aside, this is my favorite movie of the year. It may be Tarantino’s most mature, and it may also be his most satisfying. The acting from the likes of Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio is exactly what you could hope for; they remind us why they’re movie stars. The production design is flawless, soundtracking is fantastic, and the assorted bit parts playing household Hollywood legends make this really fun. Not to mention the humorous meta-commentary scattered throughout, which really sends this over the top.

If you don’t like Tarantino, well, you probably aren’t gonna see this anyway. It’s QT distilling his QT style in all the best ways, with some wisdom that comes with aging. He reminds me of Malick, only in the sense that so many people are dismissive of his new style while they reminisce on his early masterpieces. But if you’re into the style he’s adopted for several movies (as I am, and as I am for Malick as well), the guy just cannot miss. Nevertheless, the maturity and self-awareness on display for much of the film may catch you by surprise.

To wrap it up, I want to conclude by saying Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate was utilized perfectly. Of course, there’s been talk about how limited her role is, but it’s limited for appropriate reasons. First, she isn’t a main character—she’s a main character’s neighbor. Second, allowing the audience to grow close to her would probably do more harm than good, by forcing us to remember how viciously and unfairly her life was taken. Lastly, her character is impressionistic. She represents the dream of Hollywood, and of fame. There’s a spectacular scene, shown in the trailers, where she watches herself on the big screen, beaming as the audience around her laughs and cheers. It’s such a pure-hearted moment, and if you’ve ever acted and watched an audience enjoy your parts in a theater (shockingly I have), you know that it’s a magical experience. It’s the magic of Hollywood, and it’s something that this movie gets so right from beginning to end.

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