‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ serves up nostalgia
Tarantino returns with what he believes is an intimate portrait of the demise of the Golden Age of Hollywood during his childhood in 1969 as seen through the caricatures of two almost-washed-up actors and the entrée of a modern cinematic farrago littered with ethnic diversity, hippies, women and classless acting. Fans of nostalgic gumbo will love this film and its herald of days gone-by. Everyone else will find the monotonous pace, misogyny, ethnic ignorance and lack of cast chemistry strenuous.
Leo DiCaprio is Rick Dalton, a television actor of a widely acclaimed show that is being canceled. Depressed and irritated that he will have to shift his focus from a man’s-man lead to supporting-role-has-been in “Italian Westerns,” he leans co-dependently on the shoulders of his underpaid stunt double, valet and driver, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Zealously supporting Rick's plan to become a movie star at his own expense, Cliff struggles to find steady work and happens upon a young lady, who is a part of the Charles Manson family. Simultaneously, Rick realizes that his new neighbors are horror-innovator, Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha), and his wife, the beloved starlet, Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie).
Tarantino strays from his usual gratuitous gore and violence and opts for a more thoughtful romp through nostalgic Los Angeles. Memorabilia, songs, clothing, magazines, signs, restaurants, movies and actors/actresses from the era are flagrantly interlaced. There are long, dreamy scenes of rider-perspective driving with the radio as the backdrop, which can become tedious for some viewers. Cinematography is tongue-in-cheek as shots, expressions and campy techniques from the 60s are exploited for humor.
Misogyny & -Isms
This is the story of two white men who are losing their footing in their traditional cinematic habitat to dirty hippies, women, Asians and European movie producers. One movie poster in the film is for a fake movie titled, Red Blood, Red Skin: The Only Good Indian is a Dead Indian. It’s catchy and wildly offensive along with several other re-imagined films, phrases and attitudes toward Mexicans, women and Asians. A scene where Brad Pitt slings Bruce Lee into a car and smashes the door is emblematic of the repression of Asian cinema to protect the Hollywood-male ego. The tagline for this film should have been Make Movies Great Again.
Always the intentional writer and director, Tarantino has pompously abandoned the utility of a compelling female lead and compelling plot. Aside from Brad throwing peace signs to girls ripe for Manson cult membership, an indomitable female presence is virtually non-existent as expressed by child actress, Trudi (Julia Butters): “I say actor not actress because the word actress is nonsensical.” Ironically, Trudi is the only well-rounded female actress in a scene that rebukes Rick for calling her “Pumpkin Puss.”
Margot Robbie is peppered on-screen as a jovial, dancing disco-head sans sex symbolism. Along with exuberant actresses who portray some of the most infamous women in serial-killer history, they have scant lines, no substance and no magnificence.
Pitt fans will not be disappointed by their Robert Redford doppelgänger. Brad carries the tedious and uninspiring plot with a certain satisfaction and glee that only an actor with food on the table could implore. There is no desperation or ambition, no fear of a ruined career; just the cool, stable confidence of credibility. Bonus: Shirtless, roof scene.
Leo never fails as an actor but this film fails him. Fans will notice the understated stutter he adds to Rick’s speech and his comedic spin on Rick’s emotional fits over his failing career. His slapstick timing is wasted on this feat but it’s a break from watching his soul wrenched into pieces.
Tarantino takes creative liberties with the stories of real-life actors intertwining with the Manson Family and the fictitious Rick and Cliff. It could be akin to “Inglourious Basterds" but lacks flavor, action and passion. One and a half hours in, the film starts to pick up with Cliff oblivious that he’s at the Manson’s “Hills Have Eyes” brothel, led by a barefoot Dakota Fanning. Tarantino fans will expect some action at this point but the scene ends flat and abruptly. Ultimately, the end has Cliff and Rick saving the world from the Mansons and all is well.
Action Fans & Tarantino Fans: -5 out of 5 Miners (Yes, Negative)
There is zero action until the last eight minutes of this nearly three-hour film.
Fans of Nostalgia: 4 out of 5 Miners
The film is dripping with nostalgia and the good old days before people were required to care about equality, fair pay, #MeToo or Lives Matter. The film will appeal to those who can relate to losing their relevance in social norms, employment and cultural humility. Where is John Wayne when you need him?
Fans of Oscar-Winning Movies: 2 out of 5 Miners
This is the most disjointed, dry and unappealing Tarantino film. This love letter to a White Man’s Hollywood is tone-deaf and incapable. It is impossible to believe the pulp-director created this dour hodge-podge of nothingness. The Manson Family injection is random and lazily juxtaposed with the story of Rick and Cliff who lack connection and depth with the audience. There are four nuanced scenes that – if surrendered to Tarantino’s artistic propensity for violent vengeance, witty dialogue, charismatic and loveable characters – could have made this another iconic film with a superb spin on a vitriolic historic event: Cliff’s dog, Cliff encountering the Manson Killers with his dog, Rick versus Trudi and Bruce Lee vs Cliff.
Read more about the films that inspire the movie: https://variety.com/2019/film/news/once-upon-a-time-in-hollywood-10-films-influences-easy-rider-1203278921/
Watch Tarantino, Leo, Brad and Margot discuss the fim: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_W12HmsIMY
Read more about Manson follower Catherine "Gypsy" Share who is portrayed in the film: https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/heres-true-story-behind-lena-100000276.html