I assume the ellipses are necessary. Probably…maybe.
Caught the Sunday afternoon showing of Quentin Tarantino’s newest film, Once Upon A Time In… Hollywood at the AMC 16 in Evansville. Had a few drinks at brunch before hand, so I was ready to go full food coma, my favorite type of coma, before the movie started. Once it did, however, the yawns went away quickly, despite the typical slow start of a QT film.
My favorite part of QT films is usually the witty conversations and banter between the main characters. His story lines generally don’t drive the movie for me. It is the dialogue and the generally unashamed, unapologetic violence for the sake of violence.
Once Upon A Time…(maybe they are necessary) doesn’t quite deliver the fanciful banter or mild-mannered philosophy you got in the dialogue in something like Reservoir Dogs or Hateful Eight. And you don’t get the jarring violence until nearly the very end. You do get several good laughs. You do get Brad Pitt chewing up every scene he is in, even the ones where he is just driving, looking all Brad Pitt-y. Is it just me, or does he always seem poised to gleek on command? Is gleeking still a thing?
You don’t get much Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate, one of a handful of nonfictional characters in a fictional movie. Although she lights up the screen each time she is on screen, as Margot Robbie tends to do. It has become the QT hallmark to insert fictional stories into famous events, and then rewrite history. This one, built around the Manson family murder of Tate and friends at the Polanski home is rewritten entirely, eventually. If you think this is about the Manson family, it is not. Although they do a decent job of showing why the family was both so intriguing, and so creepy.
The murders have been said to have marked the beginning of the end for the hippie movement in 1969. QT also uses this movie as a chance to hammer home the metaphor of old vs. new in the movie world, with the two stars, Leonardo DiCaprio and Pitt, representing the old, and getting phased out. In case you missed the metaphor somehow, he even shoehorns in a book plot summary in the middle that, well, felt shoehorned. He even made sure to take some shots at the spaghetti westerns that emerged in the mid-60s. Olyphant represents part of the new. And don’t think I wasn’t really hoping he would cross paths with Damon Herriman, playing Manson, just to see Raylan and Dewey together again.
Tarantino has always been up front with his love for old hollywood. Most of his movies are an homage at minimum, a full on effort to revive the old ways ot most. So, it is actually a bit surprising it took this long to make a movie about exactly that culture shift.
As for where this ranks on the pantheon of QT films, somewhere in the middle, probably, acknowledging that a lot of people have a different top level. I’d say this will be in the middle for a majority, no matter what QT fans have on top or below. But, a mediocre Tarantino movie is still better than most. It is pulling an 85 on Rotten Tomatoes right now, and that feels about right. For the record, I still have Reservoir Dogs number one on my QT list.
Also, I need to go back and rewatch Jackie Brown. It seems to grade out better than I remember, admitting I have not watched it since it came out.