Once Upon A Time

Leonarbởi vì DiCaprio as Riông chồng Dalton & Brad Pitt as Cliff Booth in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Photo: Andrew Cooper/Columbia Pictures
Quentin Tarantino isn’t the only director who makes movies that address, invoke, extol, parody, imitate, & fetishize other movies, but he’s one of the few whose dialogues with the past can occupy the same artistic plane as the objects of his reverence — và can even, on happier occasions, transcend it. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a very happy occasion. It’s a ramshackle ’60s pastibịt that acquires a life of its own, evoking not just an era và its pop culture but also celebrating the impulse to recreate & (the effrontery!) rewrite the past in line with his fantasies. Say what you will about those fantasies — they’re innocent, they’re deviant, they’re sometimes weirdly both at once — but no one imparts his pipe dreams so seductively.

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The ’60s that engages Tarantino doesn’t touch on the healthy & corrective sầu elements of the counterculture. If anything, he’s a reactionary, nostalgic for the lone-gunman TV Westerns of the ’50s & early ’60s, while using the Manson “family” members to lớn represent hippies. Leonarbởi vì DiCaprio plays Riông chồng Dalton, a fading Western TV star with a star-kích cỡ drinking problem. Riông chồng would self-destruct in private but for his bud, his amigo, his stuntman/driver/gofer/one-man entourage, Cliff Booth, played by Brad Pitt. Discomfort is built inlớn the relationship, because Cliff can’t get work on his own (there’s a scandal in his past) and because Riông xã no longer has the clout lớn ensure that Cliff will be hired along with hyên. It gets awkward. Tagging along, Cliff seems lượt thích a bit of a masochist: After chauffeuring Riông chồng home, he returns to his trailer, watches Mannix, và eats a bowl of macaroni & cheese (from a box) while his big dog beside hyên has a bowl of dog food (from a can — and slimy). They’re both good dogs. Rick, meanwhile, must consider a life in Italy with or without Cliff, where spaghetti Westerns beckon to lớn American actors past their prime.

For a while, Once Upon a Time seems as if it’s going to lớn be nothing but a series of extended digressions. But it’s shaped lượt thích a Western, and gets better, tighter, & more surprising as it moseys along, plainly building to the grisly, still-inexplicable tragedy that’s said to have ended the hedonistic feel of late-’60s Hollywood. Next door to lớn Riông xã on Cielo Drive in the Hollywood Hills live Roman Polanski — super-hot off Rosemary’s Baby — và his young bride, Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), whom we know going in will be butchered on the night of August 9, 1969, by Manson family members at the behest of their psychotic overlord. Tate is the film’s third và lesser protagonist, but Robbie has one of its most moving scenes, in which Tate goes khổng lồ a theater khổng lồ watch herself in a new Dean Martin–Matt Helm movie. If Tarantino has a Dream Girl, it would be Robbie here, her dirt-smudged bare feet (he’s notorious for his foot fetishism) on the chair in front of her, wide-eyed at seeing herself best Nancy Kwan in a karate fight. Be still my heart! That the footage onscreen is of the real Sharon Tate makes the sequence even more poignant.


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I’m slightly older than Tarantino (I was born in ’59, Tarantino in ’63) but we giới thiệu a nostalgia for a culture we saw only from afar, too young to lớn have gotten in on all the R-rated fun. As shot in glowing hues by Robert Richardson và designed by Barbara Ling (production) & Arianne Phillips (costumes), the bric-a-brac constitutes its own kind of fetishism. Marquees with titles like Three in an Attic (what did the trio vì up there?) are tantalizing, và so are radio commercials for perfume và trailers for such movies as C.C. and Company with Joe Namath on a motorcycle (plus Ann-Margret). There was no trang chính đoạn phim, of course, và no streaming, so you saw movies in theaters or waited for them to lớn show up (edited, panned-and-scanned, broken up by commercials) on TV (on one of only six or seven channels). There’s no reason for Tarantino to have Rick’s effusive new agent (Al Pacino) mention that he watched Rick’s movies at home page in 35 millimeter & TV shows in 16 except that it sounds so exotic, lượt thích saying you listened khổng lồ a single at 45 rpm. An issue of TV Guide (how umbilically attached we were lớn it!) sits on Cliff’s table. Robert Goulet murders “MacArthur Park” on the TV screen. Tarantino sets off the Mannix opening with its floating split screens và brassy Lalo Schifrin theme the way Warhol mix off his soup cans. The jam-packed soundtraông xã, chockabloông xã with goodies, is its own love sầu letter to lớn the ’60s. Tarantino gives you the sense that he makes movies to lớn be able khổng lồ live inside them. They’re his time machines.

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His dialogue doesn’t have sầu the tension of his other movies, but after the interminable mamang lại patter of The Hateful Eight, I welcomed the gentle pacing and the characters’ introspection. I’ve never enjoyed DiCaprio more than in the middle section, in which Riông xã is a guest villain on a pilot for another TV Western starring an actor played by Timothy Olyphant. He has an exchange on a porch with little Julia Butters (a star is born!) as an endearingly serious child actress that proves DiCaprio doesn’t have sầu to grandst& lớn draw you into his character’s alienation. He doesn’t even have to lớn furrow that wide brow lớn suggest deep thoughts — they’re there in his stillness & in his melancholy, near-musical drawl. There’s a scene in his trailer (“You’re a fuckin’ miserable drunk!” he screams at himself in the mirror. “Get the lines right or I’ll blow your fuckin’ brains out!”) that taps inkhổng lồ an aspect of DiCaprio’s personality I’ve sầu never seen onscreen before — the fear of screwing up to a point where he won’t be noticed anymore. (Nicholas Hammond is wonderful as the show’s director, Sam Wanamaker, an actor who’d go on khổng lồ recreate Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London; Tarantino introduces just enough Shakespearean diction inkhổng lồ Wanamaker’s lines lớn capture the essence of his passion.)


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Cliff’s big sequence is almost as amazing. Tarantino has never written something as quietly foreboding as Cliff’s visit lớn the Spahn Ranch, a former mix for Westerns in which the Manson family has taken up residence. Cliff has given a lift to lớn one of the “girls,” played by Margaret Qualley (best known for The Leftovers), who beckons to hyên ổn with her eyes and then her whole body — so light it’s as if she’s wafted on air currents. (This is another star-making turn.) Cliff trudges around the compound under the suspicious glare of other girls — a posse that includes Lemãng cầu Duntê mê & Dakota Fanning as “Squeaky” Fromme — in tìm kiếm of the owner he worked with a decade earlier. In Mary Harron’s recent Manson drama, Charlie Says, the blind, elderly Spahn was seen being fellated by a Manson girl, but here he’s a full-blown figure of pathos played by Bruce Dern, whose customary cantankerousness suggests a man whose age và disabilities have sầu helped transsize hyên into lớn a helpless addict. (Manson doesn’t appear in this sequence. Damon Herriman plays hyên ổn with spooky dishevelment in a scene in which the madman wanders onlớn Tate’s property looking for its previous resident, the music producer Terry Melcher.)

It’s hard to lớn do justice to the riches of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, to lớn its cameos (Damian Lewis as mean Steve McQueen!) and its droll bits of business, aý muốn them a devilish shot featuring a speargun. Tarantino has audaciously written Bruce Lee (played by Mike Moh) as an arrogant diông xã who lectures Hollywood stuntmen on his superiority. There are lapses. Al Pacino doesn’t have the fine-tuning for a Tarantino movie — his generalized hamminess sticks out. The shots of the lank-haired, scowling Manson girls spread out in a line are a misogynist’s nightmare — they look ready lớn tear Cliff lớn pieces like the Dionysian harpies in The Bacchae. I’m troubled that Tarantino suggests (even satirically) that square-jawed mamang đến cowboys were victims of the counterculture và would have been (along with their fists, guns, & flamethrowers) the answer to lớn its excesses.

But on its own terms, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a farrago of genius. Because of the horror that’s imminent, a sequence in which Hollywood’s neon signs (El Coyote, Musso & Frank, và more) hum lớn life as the sky darkens on August 9 is both lyrical và bristling with dread. The convulsively brutal climax I wouldn’t dare to lớn spoil. The finale is a wonder. Has there ever been a scene so simultaneously euphoric & heartbreaking? Tarantino’s dream world is a sadistic place, but in a way it’s sublime, lượt thích heaven nestled inside hell.

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