Quentin Tarantino’s happy homage to Hollywood.
LA’s enfant terrible of film just dropped his 9th flick. Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood’ is a nostalgic tribute to Tinseltown’s indie film scene during America’s tumultuous counter-culture era. Shot on 35mm film and grossing $41 million at the opening, this movie is brimming with meaning, mojo and skitzo imagination.
‘Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood’ is nearly three hours of Hollywood nostalgia, parallel narratives and rococo storytelling courtesy of ace auteur Quentin Tarantino. With charming visuals of la-la land in 1969, oodles of arcane movie trivia and frames chock full of vintage cars, clothes and on-set camaraderie, Quentin’s rambling comedy is a tickling and tender picture.
The story celebrates the bromance between a washed-up western star (Leonardo DiCaprio → Rick Dalton) and his faithful right-hand homie (Brad Pitt → Cliff Booth) as they navigate LA’s crazy culture industry in all its surreal stagecraft and Schumpeterian wobbles. It depicts the alt-history, or reimagining, of the Charles Manson cult and the fate of Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), an emerging starlet who was married to badass cinematographer Roman Polanski (below).
The long-winded script will strain your attention span at times, but you’ll be charmed by the audacity of the film (especially all the little details) and the high-velocity vignettes. We loved watching a clique of Nazis being torched to a crisp by DiCaprio’s character wielding an insane flamethrower — “Did anyone order fried sauerkraut? Hahaha!…” A pompous Bruce Lee (Mike Moh) gets an unexpected drubbing by Brad Pitt’s character, a savage stunt man and tough as nails war hero (who also snuffed out his wife for being overly-condescending while on a boat trip). He gleefully pummels a gutter-bred Manson goon at Spahn Ranch for sabotaging his Caddy with the kind of rock-’em-sock-’em visceral thrashing that only Quentin Tarantino could dream up.
There is an excellent anti-hippie vibe throughout the film and a highly politically incorrect dialogue teeming with [casual] racism-o-rama Tarantino-style (“Don’t let the Mexicans see you crying!”) and cheeky rib-ticklers. Woksters will hate this movie to the max because women are both ditzy slurpees and objectified sexpots while the lead characters — mainly pedigreed alpha bros with a white complexion — gush with John Wayne-esque testosterone and old school machismo.
Spoiler alert: the best bit is near the end when Charles Manson’s hit squad arrives and the splatter epic begins. The residence atop Cielo Drive becomes a drug-addled slaughter house of oozing wounds, exploding organs and biological horrors — blood, goo, maulings, charred skin and broken cheek bones galore. But Mr. Tarantino indulges in some creative counterfactual history, making the Helter Skelter cultists the unlucky prey rather than a pregnant Sharon Tate and her unsuspecting guests (a bit of a fabulation — but a good one!). Blood and guts erupt like a geyser in a beautifully stylized, revisionist take on the infamous Manson murders and the angelic actress’s destiny gets auspiciously re-written.
Quentin Tarantino is now 56 and this is his ninth film. Last week he teased the idea of a Kill Bill Vol. 3 as his 10th and final masterpiece. Yaaaas! But we’d love to see the director explore the Golden Golem of Greatness (along with Melania in some satirical/neo-noir biopic) and his wholesale hijacking of globalism, the RussiaGate perps and the triggered contours of America’s Shakespearean and totally psychotic culture.
Photography Sony Pictures + Margot Robbie +
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