Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★

Seen at Peckhamplex.

The late Toni Morrison once said: "All good art is political! And the ones that try hard not to be political are political by saying, ‘We love the status quo.’"

If Quentin Tarantino's ninth film is elegiac as has been said, it's only an elegy for how things used to be; for the status quo of a slowly dying movie machine where racism and misogyny made you a hero.
If you don't like what you just read, duck out now because it's about to get worse.

The story of a typecast actor (Leonardo DiCaprio) aging out of his appeal and his loyal stuntman (Brad Pitt) is told in the typically fluent and immersively entertaining fashion we're accustomed to from cinema's biggest foot fetishist.
The film has the goods to show a sold out audience like mine a good time at the movies, and the leading duo are both great.
I especially loved the scene in Rick's trailer where Leo gives himself a pep talk.
Margot Robbie gives a luminous and heartbreaking performance as the doomed Sharon Tate and lights up each frame she's in.
I didn't even have a problem with her controversial lack of lines in the film, because her presence speaks for itself.
But the problem for me is with just about everything Tarantino has to say here, not how he delivers the message.


I agree with everything negative that's been said about the portrayal of Bruce Lee in this film, it's an extremely racist caricature that sticks out so badly in the scene that it is actually painful to watch.
As Lee's daughter said, if Tarantino really does revere him, there's no evidence of that here.

Now for the misogyny, what fun!
Or so Tarantino would have you believe.
Because not only is the casual plot detail of Pitt's character having murdered his wife played for laughs, in a suggestive flashback you're even encouraged to root for him doing so.

As for that ending, what is the point of retroactively saving Sharon Tate from her hideous fate at the hands of the Manson Family in what could have been - and desperately wants to be - a tender grace note, if it's only to be replaced by the brutalizing of two other women on screen.
The two Manson girls have their faces graphically smashed to a pulp by Pitt in a scene with the double whammy of toxicity of being one that is intended to be both humorous and heroic.

Tarantino ends up saying, here are the kind of women that it's okay to kill on-screen.
The revisionist history at the heart of the film's ending is not about saving Sharon and in turn the audience from witnessing a woman be horribly murdered, it's about taking out all of popular culture's collective grief and Tarantino's own anger at the dissolution of the old Hollywood out on two women.
Sure, there's a male member of the Manson Family present during the climax who is also killed but the camera simply does not pay him the kind of attention that the Manson girls get as they are killed.
Imagine thinking you're doing something beautiful that ends up just using the memory of Sharon Tate to push the purity myth and relish in misogynistic violence because it's what?
I don't think so.

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