Once Upon a Time in Hollywood ★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Hollywood redemption through Dalton and Booth. Don’t really know what to make of this one. The production design, especially that early montage, is so evocative and richly detailed. The experience is immersive echoing some of my favorite period recreations in a way that reminded me of Zodiac - just the sheer amount of details we see. 

Neither Dalton nor Booth are angels. Tarantino shows Dalton’s DUI and drinking troubles punctuating it with Kurt Russell’s first instance of narration. Booth has the reputation for killing his wife in a scene that is left vague enough that it is worth asking legend or fact - did this happen?

And yet the movie hinges on pivotal scenes where these two cogs in the Hollywood machine do the right thing.  Dalton’s relationship with a child actress while no members of the crew are around / no visible parents on set. In fact, the episode they are shooting exemplifies or could be a substitute for the worst possible things you can imagine happening in a situation like that. Dalton, in character, has a gun to the child’s head. 

Booth picks up a flower child and refuses a blow job because he knows she’s not eighteen.  

So there is this moral compass to the film that gets muddled by Tarantino’s depictions of chance, fate, and other vices. 

It’s a continuation of the religious imagery, at least for me, in the final sequence that was so prevalent in hateful eight.  It feels like Dalton is standing at some sort of biblical gate at the end of the film, that idea and imagery made all the more complicated by Tarantino’s revision of the Manson murders. 

Tate (Robbie is astounding in this) herself feels like some angelic figure. The way he frames her at the movies is something to behold. 

Here the prospective murderers see themselves killing the figures in entertainment that taught them to kill. It’s hard not to think back to QT appearing on news cycle when I was a kid for Kill Bill and watching him brush off pundits and “guest moms” complaining his movies were too obscene, too violent, Ect. 

But QT’s resolution, and the picture’s resolution, to the ideology of the muederous and hypocritical gang that wanders the hills in the final stretch of the film is convoluted and cryptic. It’s a shocking sequence meticulously designed so that every punch, smash, and charring of flesh is felt. 

The violence is given the same attention to detail as are the countless evocations in the first 2 sections of the film. It is as nuanced and meticulous as the period details of cars, billboards, radio ads, fictional filmographies, real filmographies, movie theaters and drive ins, outfits. 

I don’t know. Rambling. Will watch again. There’s remarkable stuff in this film. It may be my favorite performance by Pitt. 

But there’s this meta aspect, not only functioning as a window into a career DiCaprio could have had in the 60s, that runs through the film that I can’t put my finger on. Dalton goes on the variety show and sings “don’t open that green door”. In the film’s upending of history he literally goes through the green front door of his home. Margarita in hand. 

Booth smokes a joint coated in acid and he has to ask his attackers if they’re real. It’s clear Tarantino and his characters have broke through to a different Hollywood reality. Or maybe they arrive at Tarantino’s idillic Hollywood complete with the kind of men, movies, cars, and women the celebrated auteur would like to immortalize. I wonder if the film does enough to guide its viewers to that destination as well. 

Also would just like to say DiCaprio’s breakdown in the trailer is a legendary moment in a legendary career. 

I don’t know. Bizzare movie need to watch again.

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