Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★★½

This film is about the idea of ALMOST. We only ever talk about pursuing or not pursuing dreams. And we only ever talk about outright success and outright failure. But we never think about the possibility of the in-between. Of giving your life to film and tv only to be slowly fazed out as you age out of your leading man looks. Of giving your life to the industry in service of an invisible profession that takes your life and body without giving you the riches and fame that everyone dreams of. Of being young and attractive and on the verge of something great, but not QUITE there yet.

The 60s became the 70s and the stars of the yesterday are replaced by the stars of tomorrow. Free love and peace are corrupted for malevolent ends and the world shifts on its axis into a darker, grittier, meaner time for the next generation.

The most interesting part of the film is the story Tarantino doesn't have time to because he's too busy digressing and digressing and digressing to explain a throwaway comment as an excuse to show off his extensive and impressive film knowledge. The what-if proposed by the end of the film drastically changes society, pop culture, and the film industry. That what-if lays out the themes and ideas better than any of the clumsily edited scenes in the actual film do.

It's a near three-hour collection of entertaining and well-acted moments that never come together or coalesce into anything grander because Tarantino doesn't seem particularly interested in the larger picture that likely inspired him to make the movie in the first place.

If anything, it feels like he gets lost in the production design and the nostalgia it presents. This film feels like a story told by a charismatic drunk in a bar who keeps getting distracted and forgetting why he started to tell you the story in the first place. It's entertaining and you laugh and its undeniable that the man knows what he's talking about but you walk away wondering what the point of any of it was beyond those separate moments. If you're just laughing at the way the man tells his story in the bar, are you laughing at the story or the man? And is it a good story is he just an entertaining fellow?

There's a half dozen great films squashed into this one and they are all suffocating under the weight of nostalgia and film history. Leo and Brad are treasures in this. Margaret Qualley gives one of the best performances of the year. And it ends up being perhaps the most tender-hearted of any of the man's films.

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