Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★★½

I know there is a lot of discussion about this film right now, and I will comment on parts of it. But one thing is inarguable; there is only one person alive making movies like this. Now that might be a good thing or a bad thing for you depending on your sensibilities, but you can't argue that anyone other than Quentin Tarantino could get away with a movie like this.

I found the film exceedingly indulgent, excruciatingly tangential, and mind bogglingly fractured. But I think I still come out slightly positive on this one.

There are so many angles at which one could approach this film from. There is the historical revisionism, and wether or not it is respectful to Sharron Tate and the others murdered by the Manson Family. There is the nostalgia-approaching-the-point-of-being-pornographic Hollywood insider stuff. There is the aging celebrity fighting to retain or regain his long gone popularity and significance. Which in the film is played by Leo DiCaprio, who could very easily been viewed as a Tarantino surrogate. And the last perspective I'll mention is that by all accounts, this will be Tarantino's penultimate film. A film that works best as a love letter to all the pop culture iconography that congealed and manifested in the man himself.

I wouldn't complain about the pacing, because I think this is very well edited, and assembled to the exact specifications that Tarantino wanted. But during several periods during the film I thought to myself, "what are we doing here". Why are we following this person as she buys a book? Why is Bruce Lee in this? Why does Steve McQueen have a monologue at the Playboy Mansion, explaining Tate's love life? And on and on. The film didn't drag, but there was an hour of fluff that could have been better handled.

It all checks out, and it all does come into play later in the film, but man there had to be a more economical way to do some of that stuff.

I want to comment on the leering the camera does in the movie. Tarantino's feet fetish is in full effect. That doesn't bother me so much. And I will say that men are just as objectified as the women are in the film. There is a scene in the Playboy mansion, and everyone is fully dressed, but when Brad Pitt goes up to fix Leo's antenna, he takes his shirt off. (Man that guy looks good for 56 years old!) But the camera tracks up and down people's bodies. Occasionally stopping to highlight a rear end. It felt a bit gross at times.

But for me the most gross element was the over the top production design. The billboards, the music cues, the lobby cards, the bus benchers, every square inch of the frame was crammed with semi-obscure Hollywood propaganda. I'm sure a lot of it came from Tarantino's personal collection, and if so, then it seems like him just bragging or showing off. Some of it helped set the film in a time and place. After that, it was just gaudy. But then it didn't even stop at Hollywood memorabilia, there was period appropriate restaurants, candy bars, businesses, food trucks, and on and on. Did you notice Pan Am was name checked about 100 times? As if we didn't know about late 60's air travel, and in case we missed the first 15 references.

I think all the performers are good, but I don't think there are any standouts. Everyone did what I thought they would do. I hear what people are saying about the lack fo dialogue for Margot Robbie's character, Sharron Tate, but it doesn't bother me. The last thing I needed was another character without any thing of significance to say, prattling on.

*Side Note* The use of Baby You're Out of Time, is the most obvious and lazy song choice in Tarantino's filmography.

As for the ending, and the use of violence, it also didn't bother me. I didn't get a kick out of it, but I didn't find it offensive either. I expected it, and I was disappointed that Tarantino didn't do anything I wasn't expecting.

I will say that I am glad Polanski didn't play a major part, and I am glad that the Playboy mansion scene was as tasteful as it was, and that the "N" word didn't get used at all. Maybe Tarantino is listening and taking notes. Funny for a guy to mature in some ways, but still make a movie about Hollywood that feels like a little boy playing with action figures.

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