Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★★★★

"Come visit me tomorrow. Bring bagels."

A carnival of consequences in the twilight of escapism.

For what it's worth, which I know may mean very little for some depending on a score of considerations, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is one of Quentin Tarantino's more ambitious efforts to date; a sprawling hybrid hazily connected by a host of crisscrossing threads and clearly defined by a single conspicuous, unexpectedly melancholic tell. Where to begin when discussing the film conveniently eludes me at the moment of writing this, but hey, to even hint at the chance that I know how to simply go about exploring this element or that theme would immediately oust me as a cocksure liar. Because I truthfully don't know what the proper approach is when unspooling this yarn being spun before me. Hell, putting any thoughts down to screen at this point feels practically fruitless for some reason or another. So, here I am, hopelessly bewitched by something I struggle to articulate admiration for.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a vanity project in every sense of the phrase. The uncompromising, almost tiresome self-indulgence that Tarantino displays in recreating the Hollywood of yore is as breathtaking in aesthetic as it is baffling in execution. For its greater majority, the film plays less as a plain sailing narrative and more a Walk of Fame collage built upon painstaking recreation, cinephile delight, adamant peculiarity, and acute egotism, culminating in a finale that will most certainly make or break the entire charade as the filmmaker wallows in grotesque overcompensation. But within this absurd and problematic conclusion is where more of the aforementioned phrase speaks louder than ever. For it's in these final moments that Tarantino plays his hand, revealing vanity not in pride but in futility. Because not even cinema has the immense power to change the actual past.

The prior may be nothing new considering other works in his filmography, namely Inglourious Basterds, but Tarantino's implementation of this motif is unquestionably effective in his latest feature. We're endlessly obsessed with the dream of what could've been. At times, there's nowhere else many of us would rather be than lost forever as we look upon what if through rose-tinted glasses as our desperation to escape the stress of what is looms overhead. But to commit oneself to the task of rewriting history is a great act of uselessness. No matter how hard we try, what's done is done, set in stone as they say. It's this very thread that comes to provide structure and power for the yearning at the core of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. For these reasons, and several others worthy of inspection that contribute to the thematic potency and dramatic irony of the experience, I find this film to be an especially intriguing and strong endeavor for Tarantino, even one of a more mature filmmaker quite possibly, though there's plenty of immaturity at play throughout.

Hedonistic, wistful, unyielding, troublesome, bizarre, and fully loaded. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood isn't driven by intricate dialogue, per se, but time and thought. Tarantino has never been more unabashedly and unbelievably lost in his love for cinema than he is here. The whole affair is like witnessing an existential crisis handled in the most taxing and brutally desperate way conceivable, both on-screen and behind the lens. And we're right there with him and his cast of characters, cruising, smoking, drinking, dancing, killing, and dreaming in wonderland. But, let's face it, you can only dream for so long before the horrors of the real world come strolling down the street with wicked intent.

Love it or hate it, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is here to get us talking.

"It’s official, old buddy, I’m a has-been."

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