Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

In a national review, the author said that there were two types of people;

1) Avid Quentin Tarantino fans

2) Those who weren’t reading the article.

I did read it, but I have always put myself in the “Not a Tarantino Fan” category. I have to admit I’ve really tried not to see it. Besides, I rely a lot on my movie going children and grandchildren. My sixteen-year-old said it was “terrible”. The fact that they were actually checking ID’s at the theater for age, as well as the focus of the film being on Charlie Manson and the Manson murders made me suspicious that Tarantino’s penchant for excessive and often gratuitous violence would be in full evidence.

“Mostly boring, though the leads were good, and Brad Pitt was looking like Robert Redford”.

by: Tonya Lawson

But when I thought about it, every one of those reactions was age-related. The Manson murders are as real to a sixteen-year-old as Lizzie Borden’s ax; his mother could remember some of the late seventies, and Robert Redford was her go-to handsome movie star.

And my husband and I were exactly the right age to have experienced 1969, and know the horror that put an end to the innocence of the Summer of Love. So, since it was apparently very popular, we went to see it.

It probably demands a certain amount of disclosure here. In addition to our age, mentioned above (we were both 22), my husband has worked in the television branch of the entertainment business all his life.  We live in Los Angeles. It probably gives us a somewhat different filter through which to view this film.

That said, I was wrong. I was wrong to avoid it, wrong to prejudge it based on reported subject matter, and wrong to worry about the violence. There was far more violence in Hobbs and Shaw, though Tarantino’s is undoubtedly more graphic.

It is definitely, as the title “Once Upon a Time. . .” implies, a fairy tale.  It is a group of separate, episodic encounters loosely strung together by Tarantino’s imaginative recreation of what Hollywood in the late sixties  was or should have been. The lives of Rick Dalton, former star of a 50’s-ish TV western that looks very similar to 1960’s Warner Brothers westerns, and his stand-in and buddy, Cliff Booth, intertwine with glimpses of the Manson “family”, the embodiment of dark side of the freedom bestowed by casual sex and even more casual drugs, loosely strung into vignettes of a time and place that no longer exists.

Tarantino has, though, wisely chosen locations that do still exist in one form or another. “We were there last night” my husband whispered to me at one point. “Look, that’s where we walked across the street.” I also recognized places I frequently drive by. This may  not be of much significance to others; after all, one restaurant, one movie theater looks very like any other, and none of the locations significantly move the plot, such as it is, along. But they make those vignettes feel very real.  My only real criticism regarding authenticity was that, even in 1969, not everyone was dancing all the time.  On the other hand, it’s a killer soundtrack.

I doubt , too, that the younger patrons appreciated all the references to old television shows and movies that permeate the script. I am quite sure, though, that choosing them, using clips, and even re-creating scenes was done with appreciation, attention to detail, and love for the past.

DiCaprio (Rick) and Pitt (Cliff) are more than believable in a best -friends, partners, co-worker kind of relationship. They are ably surrounded by a cast that includes Margot Robbie,

Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, Damian Lewis and Al Pacino, among others. Cameo appearances abound. There’s not a discordant note anywhere in the performances.

Like all good fairy tales, it pits good against evil. The relentless, malevolent, inescapable nature of evil is tamed by bringing it down to human size, where it can be conquered by those who are the least likely heroes.

And everyone lives happily ever after.

Like I said, it’s a fairy tale.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Shelby Larsen Rating

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