You know there is quite a big downside to writing articles of this nature, especially when your friends see movies before you, and eagerly wait to hear what you think of it, because they really enjoyed it, then I realise all I will be doing is writing a rant which earned me the name WidowCranky.
It does’t help that if you are going to send me to watch a film with a link to some imfamous murders, which frankly, most people know the story of (that is if you aren’t a milleniual and remember the “Golden Age” of cinema even if it is through reruns), then you change the outcome of said murders, then this is going to upset me. I find the psychology of murderers fascinating, so, I don’t care that your name is Quentin Tarantino, there are some things which don’t need your play on things to sell the story. One of those is the Mason/Polanski murders.
Let me just say, I am a huge Tarantino fan, so it pains me to sit here and slate a film of his (I am going to ignore “The Hateful 8” as that was frankly terrible and too long).
Let’s start with the good things… all the performances are good (even if I was disturbed by Brad Pitt looking like Robert Redford). Leonardo Di Caprio is great as a fading actor and Margot Robbie gives a whimsical performance as Sharon Tate… I could tell you the rest, but honestly it is what IMDB is there for. They all create a great on screen chemistry which is, in itself, thrilling to watch.
I particularly liked Brad Pitt (Cliff Booth) and his relationship with Leonardo Di Caprio (Rick Dalton), and Cliff and the relationship with his pitbull…. as these were intwined. Pitbulls, as we all know are aggressive attack dogs (as in they were bred for bear and bull baiting), yet they are loyal and when trained properly loving companions… much like the relationship between Cliff and Rick; Cliff was a loyal companion and a handy trained attack stunt man. The relationship mirrored was a clever tactic in showing where the power and loyalties lie.
I also understand what Tarantino was trying to do…The film after all is called “Once upon a time in Hollywood”, so adding a historical event and manipulating it is just exploiting how Hollywood will take any story or event and manipulate it to get the box office sales… but this is where my appreciation for what he has done ends.
Yes, there are some very funny pieces within the film. Yes, the final fight scene is exactly what you want to see from a Tarantino movie – it will literally make you sit there and think to yourself “Gee I bet that smarts”, but these things alone will not carry this film into anything that you want it to be.
There may be spoilers from here on out, so if you are intending to watch this film and don’t want me to ruin this for you… stop reading now (but please do come back another time and let me know why I was wrong… believe me… my view on this has caused some raised eyebrows…).
Let’s start with the biggy – Tarantino playing fast and loose with history. Ok, so he has done this before, as every other director has done in Hollywood. No one wants to watch 2 hours of film where not much happens, but when you take an iconic murder of a convicted rapists wife, unborn child and friends and make it not happen, this is taking it a step too far. Before you scream at me – this is the point, please refer to my earlier comments about understanding that… I just am not happy that this has been taken to such an exteme that we take a persons murder (so not a group event to make it look more heroic, not an outcome that is written by victors…and actual person who died in a horrific incident) and make it not happen, this doesn’t sit well with me, more over it is made that the murderers get their dues before they have even murdered anyone changes a whole point in history.
Now, I understand that the great QT has a love affair with the silver screen…harping back to the days of when heroes were easy to recognise because they wore white and they were put on a pedastal and the bad guys wore black and all looked shifty, and this film by far is his greatest love letter to that era…but…Hollywood is a fickle mistress and much like Rick Dalton in this film, perhaps QT feels his grasp on his Hollywood crown slipping, in this awkward feeling of watching a director who has reached his peak and is slipping in to bit part playing. From other reviews I have read, people loved the sets, bringing them back to the roaring 60’s but what I saw was a cinema used in “Inglorious Bastards”, trailers used in “Kill Bill” and probably the stables and saloons from “The Hateful 8” and “Django” as if trying to claw on to his own previously merited films.
This film is by far too long, running at 160 minutes, that is 2 hours and 40 minutes I sat in a cinema feeling confused. The film naturally feels like it breaks in to 2 halves… The Rick Dalton build up, and then the Mason time line that wasn’t. The later of the two feels more like a QT movie, bringing in the usual voice over, labled time line and bloody fight scene, the first part feels it is building to something that never really comes to fruition.
I understand that Rick Dalton is loosely based on Burt Reynolds and Cliff Booth is broadly inspired by Hal Needham, but this felt like a long journey just to bring Dalton in to the view of Polanski – Because… you know, through out the film we are shown that Dalton has low morals to have a best friend who killed his wife, so it would be fine to work for a rapist.
QT has managed to squeeze in to this film all of his usual fetishes – the blond femme fatals, the Lolita effect girl, but what has taken a turn for the worst is his foot fetish… oh lord… the feet in this are… gag worthy. Not sharing a foot fetish with Tarantino has always been an issue for me, but previously he has managed to at least pick women with feet that are bareable for viewing… but this time…no, the toes are mangles, they are boney and buniony… and frankly repulsive. We get it fella you really like feet… but I have to tell you… this is a niche thing and the majority of your audiences felt their stomach flip when hippie chick mooshed her repugnant feet up against the windowscreen.
There is so much more I could rant about from continuity errors and poor symbolism, but instead I am going to end on talking about that bit about Bruce Lee (Mike Moh). This is actually one of my favourite bits of the film… yet people appear to be up in arms about how QT has portrayed Lee. Reviews have slated the arrogant way that Lee comes across in this film, and the thought that a mere stunt man could beat him in a fight is proposterous. So lets break this down a little bit… Bruce Lee had a great confidence in himself and his art, this, to people who didn’t know him or understate that his combat style was a form of art to him, could have easily perceived him as arrogant. This scene is a flashback for Cliff Booth, as he recalls why he can’t work with certain people. It is set from the perspective of one person, we all have our own image of how things happen as we replay them, this is what this scene is… a fictional characters memory of a fictional fight… it is not gospel that this is how Bruce Lee was… so lets all sit down and think about this calmly. Also if Bruce Lee were to be pitched against a war vetran who was trained in hand to hand combat, the liklihood is that he could have lost, because his style was based around discapline and technique, where are the bare knckle fighter will not fight fair… it is much the same as if we pitched the karate kid against Bruce Banner…
All in all, if you stomach the horrible way in which history has been so horrendously distorted, and the apparent 2 films in one and the awful feet and you have nearly 3 hours to spare, then this is worth a watch just to see the fight scene at the end, other than that, I saw very little merit in this confused homage to the 60’s film industry.
Have you seen “Once upon a time in Hollywood”? Why not tell me what you thought in the comments? Like this post? Why not share it?