sugarate00’s review published on Letterboxd:
I’m here to deliver another review as promised. Where to even begin with this one. Whew! For starters still feels long as hell (feels like watching the Lord of the Rings extended edition), but I enjoyed it a lot more this time. And initially I wasn’t going to write another full review, but I have to give this film its due. Because it absolutely ingenious!
I mean Tarantino having the outright audacity to create Bounty Law is why he’s Tarantino. How many directors create a picture within a picture like that? Heaven knows I’d watch that show especially if Pitt or DiCaprio were in it and I really hope he does turn it into a TV show as he proclaims. While this film isn’t only western lovers paradise, but cinematic escape for cinephiles. But what’s so ridiculously remarkable about the narrative he’s crafted with OUATIH is his impeccable retooling of reality. How Tarantino has not only miraculously sculpted and reshaped historical reality, but re-envisioned cinematic reality in juxtaposition to our own reality. I know that’s a loaded revelation, so just bare with me.
What Tarantino explicitly sets up with OUATIH on the surface is an alternate timeline that is really no different than his other films. He takes a historical truth or event, exaggerates it and rewrites history as some twisted fantasy on speed—or something along those lines, giving characters a better happily ever after. So here we get a reimagining of Sharon Tate’s untimely end. A true life horror story turned dark fairytale. And her storyline appears superficially as background context, but in actuality her story’s trajectory is the red herring. The takeaway you overlook or maybe never see coming, bathed in yellow and the carefree sunshine of hippy 1970s vibes, while Rick and Cliff masquerade as the centerpiece. For what Tate really represents is the innocence and naivety of Hollywood or rather sense of false protection.
Her life with Polanski and even Rick Dalton’s and Cliff Booth’s lives are the fantasy, the ideal or American dream. It’s unthinkable for such a crime to ever happen in a place of privilege like the Hollywood Hills, let alone to a Hollywood Star like Sharon Tate, but the sad reality is that it did in fact happen. And with a single act it forever changed the facade of Hollywood and the false sense of being untouchable. A place where like Tarantino’s own films fact and fiction often mix and overlap.
Likewise with Cliff Booth and Rick Dalton we get the bittersweet reality, the other side of the coin— in this case the struggling Hollywood actor contrasted against Sharon’s rise. And we realize when we pull back the curtain things in Hollywood may not always appear what their cracked up to be( I can personally attest to that). Thus in reality there’s the idea of Hollywood and there’s what Hollywood really is.
Tarantino delivers us not only the fun aspects, but all the bullshit so to speak that happens off screen and in between jobs in Hollywood. Although he attacks it like other brutal truths or crimes with an absolute candor and wit that is unparalleled, making even the saddest moments relatable and highly enjoyable. Especially on view in the delightful insecurity of Dalton.
However it’s not until the final scenes at Dalton’s house when he cements reality —quite honestly I didn’t really catch this on the first watch— but at that moment, when their planning their demise and they remark about doing it just like in the movies, he drives his point home: that real life isn’t always like the movies and not everyone gets happy endings. That in fact real life crimes aren’t limited by the dimensions of a screen, they can’t be edited or rewritten with the simple flick of a pen, there’s no do overs, it knows no boundaries. It doesn’t care whether your rich or famous or a nobody barely making it. But on film a struggling actor like Rick Dalton gets his shot, he meets Sharon Tate, and he’s one step closer to solidifying his film acting career. Sharon —well gets another shot for her star to shine. Everyone gets their happy ending and that is what Once Upon A Time In Hollywood reminds us: that we all dream of our life being like the movies, we all want our happy ending, yet real life is far more complicated and messy, we don’t always get what we want or deserve in life, but one things for sure the world’s a better place for having Quentin Tarantino in it.
P.S. If you want to watch the TV shows that inspired this film they are currently available on Amazon Prime.