Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★★★★

In many ways, Once Upon a Time... In Hollywood set the stage for itself before Tarantino ever put pen to the page. If there was ever going to be a film about the things this film is about—innocence, poised on the brink of death, miraculously preserved in its final moments—here was a perfect convergence of time and place at which to set it. 1969: Vietnam, Watergate, the Manson murders, and the shattering of cultural idyllicism; the time of the moon landing and the closing of the final unexplored frontier; the last days of Old Hollywood, whose nature would undergo forever and irreversible revision in the coming years. This is Tarantino’s Eden, pre-Fall. 

On this viewing, Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood joins the likes of The Assassination of Jesse James, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and The Magnificent Ambersons—films brimming with nostalgic longing for a time and place that’s long gone and maybe never was.* It can only be truly appreciated from this side of history, the side that hasn’t played out like it would have once upon a time. “Maybe this isn’t the way it was... but it’s the way it should have been.” As pointed out by the ever insightful Matt Lynch, this quote is lifted from a title card in the film Judge Roy Bean, whose track “Miss Lily Langtry” we know so well from Hollywood’s blissful final moments. If those few words don’t perfectly encapsulate everything Once Upon A Time... in Hollywood is, I don’t know what does. The more I sit with this thing, the more perfect it gets. It’s one very special film, and we’re very lucky to have it.

*If I were to wager a guess as to why films like these resonate so deeply with me, I’d probably point to the Lewis quote about desires left unfulfilled by this earth pointing to an ultimate purpose that lies beyond it. Who’d have thought that idea would pop up in a Tarantino film, of all things.

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