Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★

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

This review may contain spoilers.

The first hour (and a half?) of this movie was meandering and boring for me. I think it's mostly because I'm not well-versed in pop culture references from the 60's. I can imagine seeing a version of this with references to The Matrix and shit, and feeling a lot more invested. As it is, it's more an ode to a Hollywood that I know nothing of, and really don't care about at all. So watching the first half is a slog.

In the latter half, we get some tension in the form of the Manson Family, but it really feels out of place with the rest of the movie. This thing was sold as 'Tarantino's Manson movie', and that's what the second half starts to deliver, but not really. I'm very glad about this, since when it was announced, I was imagining this awful, exploitative garbage, but it's not that. It's closer to the wish fulfillment of an Inglorious Basterds than not, and I found myself liking it a lot more because of it.

I'm deeply skeptical of pop culture's fascination with true crime and murder. There's something skeevy, to me, about listening to podcasts like Serial or seeing documentaries on the Manson Family which often succeed in being informational in a way, but also come off as exploitative of the mostly women victims of murder. We tend to learn nothing about these victims, and the celebrity of violent men grows in their wake. This 100% happened with Charles Manson, and a straightforward re-telling of that story would've done the same. By changing the ending, and by giving Robbie's Tate screen time of her own, we're able to see the person behind the spectacle.

That said, there was some controversy around Robbie's lack of dialogue in the movie. I'm not necessarily sold on the controversy- I think we still learn about her, even if she's not speaking lines to anyone. We're mostly spending time with her on her own, so it makes sense that she's not really talking to anyone. And my favorite sequence in the movie is her trip to the movie theatre. It's a heartfelt sequence, and we can imagine what it'd be like to hear a crowd reacting positively to something you were a part of.

Overall, I thought it was pretty hit-or-miss. So much of it is the Ye Olde Hollywood shit and I really don't care to romanticize any of that, so it doesn't hit for me. All of the value I got from this movie is wrapped up in its ending and the implications for that ending. It's not something I'd be interested in seeing again, but it is something I'd like to see discussed.