Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★★★

Tarantino's films have always been about storytelling and its power, at his best highlighting the irony of crafting impeccable stories and writing around shaky ideals that are often debatable due to heightened sensibilities or interpretations. But for my taste it was always at its worst when merely idealization of the act: the flip between perfectly convincing and completely see-through Mr. Orange lies, Django telling a golden lie to greedy slave owners, and especially Bill breaking the Bride down psychologically in a fucking Superman metaphor. Which is to say, they maybe feel like preaching the power of story either to the chorus or to non-storytellers for a sense of pompous achievement.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood for me then is (perhaps arguably) Tarantino at his most vulnerable, because for once it's about storytelling for the storytellers, and as a result he can only BS so much or hide behind heightened style occasionally, and for the rest of it? He has to be honest about its limits, sincere about the fear of losing prevalence, joyful about comradery in fellow craftsman, and even in an extreme heightened and perverse "happy ending"? Contemplative about why that's an endearing fantasy (at least to his prism). Why would it have been a delight for this cinephile if 60's Hollywood kept going, flaws and all?

Maybe its a deeper philosophy than even he would like to admit, and perhaps it would've made him a more commonplace director instead of being seen as a unique voice... but there's a suggestion here that even modest normality in a field is worth treasuring. In perhaps the most humane moments he's ever shown, we see Sharon Tate, a name plagued with misfortune to say the least, simply happy to exist. To wander around and take modest joy in being recognized, to take polite pride in her accomplishment, to shrug off gossipers and dance, to sip a Coke while her friends drink, etc. A beauty who already made a huge achievement simply by being in Hollywood, if ancillary, and perhaps wouldn't have gone on to do much more... but worth giving honor and joy to for forever being a part of the history of film.

Heightened into a story none of the characters involve could see the full picture of even if they wanted to, this love letter to film and its craft is obviously meant to be a rambunctious journey for mass enjoyment, but with a special nod to anyone who attempts to find relevancy and meaning in a chaotic and unpredictable world instead of being one of the chaotic destroyers.

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