Once Upon A Time in... Hollywood MY REVIEW
I rode my bike through 3-digit temperature and watched Quentin Tarentino’s new film.
The title harkens back to Sergio Leone’s trilogy titles.
I wanted to see it for personal reasons. The time span covered is the background to much of my life. As a kid, Western movies were mother’s milk. I knew all the actors.
Further, I was a real movie Nerd. Not unlike Tarantino himself.
I also moved to California and was on the edge of the fringe of Hollywood as a young man.
In other words, knowing the Director would be faithful to the essential feel of the decades in question - I’d be reliving part of my own life.
Self-centered enough reasons for you?
Okay. With that out of the way …
The title of this film is important.
Nothing about Hollywood has ever been real.
California’s fine weather and generous sunlight magnetically sucked in legions of actors, Directors, dream seekers, and self-promoters from the get-go.
HOLLYWOOD OR BUST pretty much sums it up.
Most aspiring folks end up disappointed, used, abused, or - worst of all - simply drunk on what a little fame and exposure does to create a bubble of charisma. This leads to a complete nightmare distortion of reality.
For instance ...
You may not know the Brad Pitt character (Cliff Booth) is based on Hollywood stuntman and (later) director Hal Needham.
Needham was a man of steel in his heyday. That’s how he met Burt Reynolds (also a wannabe actor and stuntman).
Leonardo DiCaprio is a pastiche of fading Western actors from the 50’s TV obsession with cowboys. He is a chain smoker (back when smoking was “soothing”), hard drinker, non-intellectual who must confront something truly terrifying: his FUTURE.
There are some fun Zelig moments but unless you are an old geezer - they will go over your head.
The difference between overconfidence and self-doubt demarks (Rick Dalton’s) his career.
He’s still a BIG DEAL to other celebrities on their way up. (Actors are just as coo-coo over other actors as small town rubes on a tourist binge).
In Once Upon A Time …
We are dropped into a time and place (familiar as hell to me) where we meet our two protagonists and ‘hang out’ with them as voyeurs.
It doesn’t take long for an audience to realize something rather shocking:
Standard storytelling will not be visiting your local movie theater.
This time we are required to shut up and watch the way a reporter might do a “drive along” with cops on their beat. You strap in and stay out of the way.
You either adjust to the PACE of this film or you do not.
This is a visit to a museum. There is no ticking clock.
Well, maybe there is and maybe there isn’t.
We are teased gently toward a grisly and horrific historic event not unlike the old writer’s trope: “If an author at any time shows you a gun in a drawer - sooner or later it will be used.”
I’m talking about Charles Manson and his hippie commune of misfits and mind-controlled automatons.
As we glimpse the unmajestic lives of a former Big Star and his sidekick and best buddy stunt double, the golden ring turns our finger green.
If Rick can’t pull it together and learn his lines he’d rather be dead.
As an audience member, I wanted to stage an intervention for these people to SNAP OUT OF IT! Take care of yourself why don't you?
How many stars simply fade slow, slower, slowly until we read their obituary in the newspaper? Most? Some? Too many.
***SPOILER ALERT****SORT OF***
I was dreading the slow buildup to the Charles Manson event which was approaching little by little.
That crescendo is handled like a fine Italian horror film.
I would expect nothing less from Q.T.
And that’s when it happened to me!
An unexpected emotional response seized me and I couldn’t do anything about it.
I can’t explain it.
You see … when you KNOW what’s going to happen … it’s just a matter of technique as to how it will be dramatized. Right?
I started crying in the theater and if you were sitting next to me you’d absolutely think I was a flippin’ idiot.
Tarentino did me a huge favor and made me inexplicably happy.
That’s right. He made me so happy I couldn’t help but cry.
I assure you - this won’t be your reaction.
For me, it was a vision of a much better version of a world I lived in.
If that puzzles you - well - go see the damn movie. Just don’t expect it to be like any other Tarentino film. It isn’t.
I mean, it sorta is sometimes.