Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood – 4 out of 5
My first experience with filmmaker Quentin Tarantino was Pulp Fiction. I found it to be a very impressive and unique film. Over the years I’ve consumed his products and found them to be very engaging (well, mostly) but I’ve also learned over the years that he is kind of a dickhead. I’ve also started to see the underlying racism and misogyny that often is layered into his products. I still think he’s an impressive writer with a way with dialogue and a very unique eye but I’ve grown tired of him as a person. For example, if he follows through with his plan to retire after 10 movies, I wouldn't be screaming for his return. I think that’s why when Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood came out, despite how interesting it looked to me, I didn’t have the drive to see it—there’s also the reality that I didn’t want to spend 20 bucks on a ticket to see it in the theater. Well, it hit the home market and, I gotta say, I really enjoyed this one…mostly.
|I think this was one of a million movies Brad Pitt did in 2019.|
As the 60s come to a close, actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) struggles to remain relevant as his career starts to fizzle out. Meanwhile, his former stuntman and current personal assistant Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) is feeling the effects of this struggle as he has been ostracized from the industry due to rumors of him killing his wife. Meanwhile, actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) move in next door and Dalton hopes that befriending them could revitalize his career but little does he know about the plans that Charles Manson (Damon Herriman) has for Tate’s home and all those that dwell in it.
|In all honesty, with DiCaprio, Pitt, Margot Robbie and all of the other cast members--|
that include Timothy Olyphant, Bruce Dern, Kurt Russell and more--there is a
shitload of talent in this film.
As a whole, I enjoyed Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood. The performances are awesome and, for the most part, I really enjoyed this nostalgic look at Hollywood in the 60s. One thing that really impressed me was the casting of the real life individuals in the film. Performers who not only look like but really capture the essence of who they were portraying were loaded in this film and it really help create the reality that I was seeing Hollywood during this era. This is also seen vividly in the sets, wardrobe and overall look of the film. Tarantino and his production did a great job of bringing the era to life.
|Not going to lie, this look works for DiCaprio.|
While I found the film to be visually stunning and containing great music (something Tarantino almost always succeeds with), the story was a bit of a mixed bag for me. The struggles of Dalton and Booth were fun, interesting and captivating but the film faltered for me whenever the story moved to Sharon Tate. The writing concerning her felt flat and motionless. It seemed like Tarantino just didn’t care to do anything with her nor feel the need to write any dialogue for her. Her presence in the story felt almost superfluous—that is, if it wasn’t for her connection to Manson and how his followers end up making a very shocking final act at Rick Dalton’s house. This also gives the feature a sort of meandering feeling when it concerns the story.
|Yep, we get it, QT. You like feet.|
The thing about the film that did make me cringe was, not surprisingly, was some underlying sexism and racism. I already mentioned how the character of Sharon Tate felt like she wasn’t really given any attention to concerning writing (Margot Robbie’s performance, however, was terrific despite how little she had to work with in the script) but there was also some very disturbing violence towards women. The violence subject to them got so over-the-top, so graphic, and so unevenly handled when compared to the violence towards a man in the same scene that it almost felt like Tarantino was getting off at the sight of these women just being decimated. I grant that these women were essentially some antagonists but it started to feel like torture porn. It got uncomfortable quick.
|Once a flamethrower enters the mix, you might be enjoying your "violence on|
women" scene too much.
While the 60s were a time when white men pretty much ruled all in Hollywood (that really hasn’t changed much), it seems like Tarantino was reveling in this and even going as far to alter real-life people and their personalities to make sure the white man is standing tall. I’m speaking, of course, about the Bruce Lee/Cliff Booth sequence. While I found it cool to see just how much Mike Moh looked like the legend, I was a little put off by how Tarantino portrayed the Lee as a cocky braggart. Then to have Booth come in and basically “put him in his place” with a fight felt like Tarantino was deliberately disrespecting Bruce Lee and making the argument that white is always right. I won’t argue that Tarantino is intentionally being racist because the sequence is Booth remembering an incident between the two on set so it is perfectly reasonable to say that the memory is false and it is Booth just protecting his ego by making himself look better than he was in his memory. Sadly, the scene is a bit ambiguous and doesn’t really feel like a hazy memory but rather a concrete flashback so the whole ordeal left me a little sour about seeing Tarantino make Bruce Lee look like a shitty person deserving of a beatdown.
|Can we get Mike Moh to play Lee in a different movie? One that doesn't turn the legend|
into a dick?