sam kyker’s review published on Letterboxd:
Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood, Tarantino’s ninth and supposed penultimate outing, finds Quentin at his most vulnerable. Like the three stars on this film’s “Walk of Fame”, his career (or life in Tate’s case) is finally, if we’re to believe the ten film quota, winding down. His own fading twilight, one marred by now infamous fetishes, interests, and styles, is rapidly closing. Thus, the love letter that is Hollywood, isn’t just dedicated to the rolling hills of endless dreaming and lights of Los Angeles, but to his entire catalogue of work and the fans that have followed him since day one.
When it comes to film, no one’s more knowledgeable and obsessive about it than Tarantino. Because of it, his films bubble with an unparalleled amount childlike glee. In each endeavor, there’s a different idol on display. Here, he worships cinema — its past, present, and future. His shrine, an L.A. cityscape painted with a rose-tinted gloss; a sunbathed sheen of pure, undulated nostalgia, is beautifully adorned with piled on obsessions of period piece treasures. Like a prisoner with one last day to live, Tarantino lavishes in the confines of material bliss, breathing in every ounce of life under a California sun. As unbelievable as it sounds, this beast has an air of melancholy, for a future he wishes he wasn’t apart of and a bygone age he couldn’t partake in. Yet, despite its meandering approach and stylistic departure, we as an audience never forget whose behind the camera. There are no punches pulled (With the exception of Bruce Lee, who would probably plead otherwise) in Once Upon a Time In... Hollywood. The opulence and downright ignorance of 1969 Los Angeles, a city planted firmly between the crossroads of a changing film industry and a societal cataclysm, is on full display. The glowing hubris of Tinseltown, illuminated literally by the neon-drenched drive-ins and advertisements and figuratively in its atmosphere of happenstance, is something that is toyed with throughout. Eventually though, Quentin finds happy ground.
After a three hour subversion into his headspace, one tormented by barefoot blondes and rat-ta-tat-tat references to pop culture, we’re treated to a cleanse, which happens to be a Tarantino first. His bloodbaths of yesterday were fun to be sure, but there’s something so much more impactful and fulfilling about this film’s finale. For the very first time in his career, Tarantino utilizes revisionist history properly; not to elevate carnage and ramp up testosterone, but to save innocence and restore calm.
A tool is only as effective as the one who wields it. With Hollywood, Tarantino has proved that weapon, although deadly at times, is in all actuality an overhyped fantasy.