Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★★★★

Quentin Tarantino’s entire career has been leading up to this film. Every movie script he wrote, every casting choice he made, his selection of production designer, art director, costume designer, cinematographer, editor and his unique sense of picking just the right score has all been in anticipation of this film. Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood is Tarantino’s magnum opus. For the entirety of Tarantino’s filmography he has created meta commentaries on genres and subgenres. Kung-Fu action with Kill Bill, westerns with Django Unchained and The Hateful 8, and World War II films (or what I like to refer to as 'Nazi-killing' films) with Inglorious Bastards. And after crafting all those films he has left his mark on cinema history and on pop culture as a whole. His style and craft is cemented in the minds of thousands of film buffs and regular movie goers around the world. And in Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood Tarantino uses this to his advantage by creating a meta commentary on himself. Tarantino on Tarantino. Overhauling the episodic structure, overhauling the long drawn out suspenseful dialogue sequences, doubling the amount of dutch angles, and doubling the amount of feet. Tarantino not only doesn’t hold back, but fully indulges in his style and signature trademarks.

Tarantino’s meta commentary on himself is certainly the 'style' of this film, but it isn’t the heart. The heart lies in the time period, in the culture, in the golden age of cinema. When Hollywood was hustling and bustling, shining bright with neon lights. When everyone around the country would tune in every Sunday night for the new episode of that serial western, when going to the cinema was an event and when we were gifted some of the best films ever made. It truly was the golden age of cinema. The only thing that matched its glory was the tragedy of how it ended, with the death of Sharon Tate. It truly marked the end of an era. The world stopped moving and Hollywood was never the same again. What Tarantino asks in this film is- what if it didn’t end so tragically? What if the world kept moving? What if we were able to hold on to that golden age of cinema for just a little longer? And wonder if we had been able to wave goodbye to it as it leaves rather than to have it pulled out from under us? A message so profound and so personal, Tarantino truly loved that era and it shows. All executed perfectly in its third act. The hippie Manson followers responsible for ending that beautiful era, and for the horrific, wicked, murder of the innocent Sharon Tate, get everything they deserve. Tarantino is given full freedom to go as violent as he pleases. Their gruesome deaths do not evoke any disgust, only satisfaction. 

Along the way we are given many other messages and themes relating to that era. Rick Dalton is a washed up actor at the end of his rope, his glory days are behind him. Now he is just a fading star- his character in tandem with the time period. They represent each other. And this is where Tarantino’s brilliant pacing comes into play. As we are given the beautiful segment where Rick comes face to face with his problems on the set of the pilot he is filming, where he plays the 'heavy'. The impressive editing cuts between that and Cliff Booth visiting Spahn Ranch. Cliff is a man who is content with his place in life and has been for a while. He isn’t clouded by uncertainty. He knows exactly what he is going to do and exactly how he’s going to do it at all times, and the Spahn Ranch scene displays this magnificently. Both of their individual segments in the film show us two sides to the same coin. These almost polar opposites compliment each other so perfectly and make for the believable friendship that defines this movie. Both Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt give fantastic performances. Both actors display their knowledge of how important their casting, and charisma is to the role. What we are left with is two of the best performances of all time.

And the presentation, like no other Tarantino film has ever been presented. With neon flashing Hollywood lights reflecting onto the sleek 60’s automobiles while the radio plays the very best 60’s music, accompanied by a clear night sky with oh so many stars. It all makes for one of nicest films to ever view. Framed so perfectly, edited so perfectly, there isn’t a single flaw in the presentation. I could watch Cliff Booth drive around in Rick Dalton’s classic 60’s car listening to 60’s artists such as, The Mamas and the Papas, Paule Revere and the Raiders, Neil Diamond and Deep Purple for the rest of my life.

Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood contains strong messages and themes that Tarantino films rarely do. It just speaks to how much he loved this project and how much he cared for the material and the history. Handled with such care, every shot has a purpose, every scene has meaning. Gifting you messages that all culminate in the final act. Tarantino’s filmography will always be remembered and he will go down as one of the best directors of all time, but if you ask me- none of his films contain as much meaning and purpose as Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood.

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