Kelly Appreciates Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)!

Once 002Rating: For QT, I give this a B, but for this year of so-so movies, an A-

Summary: Rick Dalton, a fading+ television star, struggles to hold onto his fame in 60’s Hollywood.

I came out of the theater not loving this movie, but not hating it either. I gave it a few days, mulled it over, and decided that it is quite good for this year’s crop of movies. It’s not one of my favorites of Quentin Tarantino’s or what I would consider to be the most engaging or interesting, but there’s a lot of good stuff here.

Disclaimer, I’m not a huge Tarantino fan and I kind of despise the people who bow down to him or rollover with laughter at his things out of obligation, not necessarily because it’s funny. I did go through a phase, as I think everyone does in their early 20s, when you first realize what good, deliberate filmmaking is and his name is often at the top of that list as it should be. While I find his quality damn near impeccable, some of his stuff feels a little too back-patty to me, and on the more extreme days- it’s like one giant circle jerk between him and his buddies.

My initial reaction coming out of this film was that it was a whole lot of nothing. There’s charm to it, but I found it lacking when it came to Tarantino’s gift of tension. Leonardo Dicaprio and Brad Pitt, whose chemistry carries most of the movie, did fine jobs. Margot Robbie, with the little she was given as doomed actress Sharon Tate, did what she could. The real problem I had with this- and with shows like Barry or movies like La La Land- is this utter devotion to Hollywood, characters and filmmakers thinking that all movies are art, and actor are artists who paint where their emotions, and what they do is akin to saving the lives of starving children or those trapped in a burning building. There were definitely moments in this movie where I was shouting in my head, “Oh, just CRACK ON, will you!?”

I’ve more or less changed my mind on a lot of this, mostly due to the title’s implication that this is very much a fairy tale in which dreams do come true- basically, exactly what Hollywood is for a lot of people in the industry. And I think that’s really, very clever. Once I started looking at it that way, rather than the real stuff aka history about Charles Manson, it fell into place. And that’s what makes this movie great- how Tarantino expects you to be watching this movie and how he manipulates your feelings with his storytelling. He is so firmly aware of the audience. There is a lot that expects you to be entrenched in a state of dread, to the point where I think if you weren’t familiar with the whole Sharon Tate history, you might be missing out on a lot of what makes this movie suspenseful. That, combined with how things go down in this piece, give it that Tarantino flair of whimsy. This is a much more mature film for him, so it might not appear all over the piece, but the film avalanches into it towards the end.

I’ll need to give this one another rewatch to cement my feelings on this one, but that won’t happen until I have the comfort of my own home. If Sharon Tate can be barefoot watching a movie, I want to be barefoot too.

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