Get ready to travel back in time! Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a tribute to Hollywood paid by a virtuoso who knows his era of Hollywood best. It is like watching memories from someone else’s beady eyes.
The vision is reflective of memories of a Los Angeles back in 1969 when Hollywood saw successful men rise and fall even as men from other professions scoured for a living. The newly launched actors truly believed they were at the top of the world, that fame was there to stay. But it was, and is, that sinusoidal ups and downs of everyone’s dream of Hollywood that summed up their lives.
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is also strongly suggestive of that American ingrained hippie culture that saw the light during the mid-60s, that rebellious youth movement that is still seeping in the veins of the world today. It subtly gets into the heads of people showing different perspectives of what and how they felt about them.
It tries to create a universe of hope where the actual Manson murders, didn’t happen. In a perfect world where crime gets aptly reciprocated, the director’s patch of land is a big “what-could-have-been” if the Manson murders could have been avoided. It’s an intriguing perspective that makes you ponder about the eventuality of life.
Quentin Tarantino’s 9th Film – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Spoilers)
Genius is what genius does. The old saying holds true even today. Quentin Tarantino, the man on a moviemaking mission, whose every cell literally speaks of the verve he holds for filmmaking, has come up with his 9th venture. The movie is like a tribute to the late 60s, his perception of his time growing up in LA for the better half.
It establishes Hollywood as this place of hope and possibilities from the eyes of all the dreamers, even scroungers who were trying to make a living in the backdrop of the world of entertainment.
So naturally, the vantage is from the eyes of a young man who was an integral part of Hollywood once, who survived with it, who knew the ins and outs of it, as he thrived alongside.
Quentin has been making amazing movies ever since his first venture Reservoir Dogs became a blockbuster. Four years ago we had the good fortune of watching his eighth movie The Hateful Eight which was riddled with suspense and thrill.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is more of a dramedy which then later spirals down towards some thrill. By the time it reaches the part where The Manson Murders are supposed to be shown, it becomes grim, gasps on thrill, only to relieve us in the climax.
As is his usual wont, even this one ends up with some gore toward the end, which remains his USPs. He creates these amazing characters (Rick and Cliff) in the movie to deliver poetic justice to a despicable crime that had stirred the very foundation of Hollywood.
The Direction of the Time in Hollywood
Quentin is smart and witty, uses different filler frames aplenty to fill up tedious stories. Not only does he use actual footages from the past to help you bask in an immersive experience, but he also creates his own version with the help of his actors and places them in the timeline.
His long shots are always complemented by the music that goes in the background to give you a genuine and authentic feel of 1969. Little things like what plays on the radio, the posters that are painted all across the city and the gorgeous sets are all suggestive of the era.
He recreates popular actors and directors like Roman Polanski, Sharon Tate and Bruce Lee to build up for a huge criminal climax in the end. He also creates the members of The Manson Family that shook the then world with their horrendous crime.
The most interesting bit is the way Quentin builds up his heroes based on the lives of real-life characters. Building them up and bedecking them with enough power and insanity to pose as heroes that upend the things that were written. It is a take that keeps chugging the engine of Hollywood taking away one ugly chapter from its book.
Leonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton
The character Leonardo DiCaprio plays is that of Rick Dalton, a washed-out actor who had a good run once but ends up struggling for roles. He is forgetting his lines, messing up, in short, finding it hard to survive in Hollywood.
It’s official, old buddy. I am a has-been.
Some of the best performances of him are laid down where Rick interacts with an eight-year-old girl, the part where he ends up reflecting on his life. It helps him get back on the saddle. As a result, the final deliverance of his acting bit is sheer gold.
The best are those parts where Rick trusts his stuntman friend more than life. It fills you up with immense hope, giving you an idea that a hero doesn’t have to be saving a damsel in distress invariably, the way they project him in movies, but a hero could also be defined by his good deeds.
To my wife and all my sweethearts. May they never meet.
Oh! and you get lucky enough to watch Emile Hirsch too, the lad who looked like Leonardo DiCaprio back in the days, shares the screen with Leo.
Brad Pitt as Cliff Booth
Brad Pitt plays Cliff Booth who is nothing but a brute force in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. He brings that interesting angle to the story by being the invincible beat, a stuntman who cannot be subdued easily. His fun sparring match with Bruce Lee bears testimony to the fact.
Anybody accidentally kills anybody in a fight, they go to jail. It’s called manslaughter.
His tough-guy demeanour also prepares us for what was imminent in the intended climax. Quentin toys with him making us think that with the acid toke, he wouldn’t be much of him. But surprisingly he proves us wrong.
Quentin also uses Cliff to recreate the then Spahn Ranch, where the Mason Family was holed up. He places this character right at the center of it to help everyone get an idea of what was really going on. He even lets Cliff interact with George Spahn to give us the full picture of how George was being used, and he was fine by it.
The Symbiotic Friendship
Cliff is a complete badass and a true friend. The latter, proven on so many occasions where you see him standing by Rick’s side come what may. He even does menial jobs for him, hangs around like his life was dependent on him. But it was fueled by unadulterated friendship.
When you come to the end of the line, with a buddy who is more than a brother and a little less than a wife, getting blind drunk together is really the only way to say farewell.
In today’s time, what Cliff and Rick had, having something as pure as what they had is rare and unreal. People are always into something for something. That being said, even though Cliff was entirely dependent on Rick’s job, it was this symbiotic friendship that they had, that had flourished into a devout unspoken loyalty.
The Ending Explained
The movie ends on a happy note despite it prepares you for a mass murder, where you are secretly wondering about the Manson murders. The whole setup is such so as to make you believe that something is about to go down. But then the unthinkable happens.
The presence of Cliff and Rick right next to Tate’s house where the murders had actually taken place, changes the plan of The Manson Fam, due to Rick’s boisterous interjection. In this universe, The Manson Fam go and attack Rick’s house instead.
The good luck being Cliff was still around. The badass stuntman handles them all, with support from a Pitbull and later Rick doing the honours with his flamethrower. As a result, a surefire tragedy gets paralyzed.
As Rick stands outside the gates of Polanski and Tate’s residence, he is invited over by the latter and the natural way of things in Hollywood moves on. What went down earlier was such a strong set of events that it makes you wonder what if this were the reality. How it would have changed so many things!
Hollywood would have not come to a standstill. The Golden age of Hollywood would have still continued for a really long time. The beautiful way LA was shown would have remained unsullied.
You can order Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood from here:
The Final Verdict
There are a lot of memories inscribed in the pages of Quentin Tarantino’s mind as he recreates Los Angeles of the late 60s. The authenticity he brings onscreen will blow you away.
That being said, the movie would be best savoured by the people of his time and those who remember and were affected by the Manson murders one way or the other.
But that doesn’t mean it isn’t for a regular filmgoer. It has ample elements in every frame to truly enjoy the mesmerizing Golden era of Hollywood.
It’s like a victory for Hollywood. The camera always wins, even though the reality could be a lot more crooked. Also, makes you wonder how a film could tell their own version of a story and go on to live in their very own fantastical dream world.
Check out the trailer of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: