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Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood
Year : 2019
Country : United-States

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DokBrowne  [ 9.5 ]    [ add to preferred ]    [ email this review to a friend ]

Here we are, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the nexus of Quentin Tarantino. His other movies played with types of cinema he enjoys - kung fu, westerns, heist thrillers, urban crime drama, blaxploitation, men on a mission adventures, road action - but here we have a movie about the pop culture kingdom that begat him, a movie set in the very world and almost during the exact period that inspired everything about this filmmaker's love of the medium. '60s and '70s cinema homage aren't just styles he works in; immortalizing and re-purposing their soul is his calling in life. It's practically a genre unto itself, the way he's elevated and remixed it with brilliant renegade panache. So this may be his definitive thesis as an artist and entertainer.

For that reason, it's all too easy to hop in the backseat and revel in the endlessly nonchalant joyride he takes with this picture. Profoundly self-indulgent and aggressively fetishistic? You bet. I lost count of how many times a pair of bare feet were in the foreground of a shot. But it's not trying to be tight, plot-driven, and set like clockwork. It's loose, sprawling, impressionistic, a mosaic of daily life for an array of Hollywood employees on different rungs of the ladder of fortune. More than anything, I believe Tarantino needed to make this movie to fulfill his own dreams of visiting this time and place that enchant him so deeply. Everything and everyone in this story was reverse engineered from his goal to erect a tactile facsimile of 1969 Hollywood on screen for his own gratification, and why the fuck not? He earned the wealth, the power, the trust of viewers and the freedom within the studio system to accomplish this grand masturbatory fantasy, and like everything he controls as a writer/director, whatever you choose to take away from it, it is an extraordinary work of art.

Combined with the efforts of tech pros working for him (give these cinematographers and set designers all the awards later this year), Tarantino's distinct sense of how to make a moment absorb and pop in your senses makes this more of a narcotic drug trip than a movie experience. You are immersed into the setting of this movie - physically, psychologically, emotionally - with a meticulousness of verisimilitude that only the most special and unforgettable films throughout history have mastered. It just feels incredible to roll through this thing for all 2 hours and 41 minutes, seeing and feeling what it was like to drive around the Hollywood hills in 1969, with no distracting story agenda impatiently pushing us forward. It's a strange, addicting mix of authenticity and heightened comedy/suspense and also pure elan for every nuance of showbiz. In a movie spilling over with delightful little things to enjoy, my favorites might be the montage of (now-)vintage business signs lighting up during the evening across town, or maybe the pan up and over a drive-in movie screen, or the pan up and over Rick Dalton's house as he sits in the pool. This is like the cinephile's "Avatar" - a near-virtual reality like experience that may cause clinical depression among people who yearn to spend forever plugged into it.

Anyhow, but what about these actors, and what happens to them? Leonardo DiCaprio continues to hold himself up to the highest standards of fame - truly every movie he makes now is an event, and his performances are guaranteed sterling. Brad Pitt kind of does his "Ocean's 11" thing again, which is fantastic because that was one of the finest uses of movie star charisma of all time. He's still got it. Margot Robbie is hauntingly blithe, carefree and vulnerable. Of the huge supporting cast, Margaret Qualley and Julia Butters make the best impressions. The latter plays a committed young actress on set who banters with DiCaprio, but with QT's words and direction, it's not just a precocious kid comedy routine. She steals scenes. And personally, I was overjoyed to see Stunt Man Mike and Zoe Bell as a married couple (and employed as stunt coordinators, of course!), however brief it was.

The story, such as it is, ends up in questionable territory, which is my vague way of saying I'm not sure yet how to feel about its finale. From one limited perspective the sequence of events that take place on screen is magnificent. But the implication of these events is worrisome and perhaps regrettably misguided? I'm open to interpreting them on some bittersweet meta level, but my gut tells me it takes something away from the overall impression the movie has made up to that point. He could have ended the movie with a similar tone but through different means, and I wish he had. In the context of Tarantino's career, it's a regressive move.

Plus if I had to point other flaws, I'm not a fan of him using random narration for 5 minutes only in the middle of the movie, like he did in "The Hateful Eight". It lasts even longer here and is completely unnecessary. But on the scale of trademark bits that we don't like of his, this is better than him having a cameo, I guess, so I'll be thankful for that. I'm actually amazed that in a movie this gorged with speaking parts, he had the discipline not to give one to himself. Furthermore, you might say some of the comedy throughout the movie can be low-hanging fruit at times, although honestly whenever I felt that a humorous moment went splat and underwhelmed, it kind of endeared me to Tarantino even more, like aww even a guy with all-time-great filmmaking talent like him is still a human being who makes dumb jokes sometimes, what a relief! (it's possible I've mythologized filmmakers a bit too hard at this point)

Oh I forgot, maybe these are my two favorite little things: during the first round of individual end credits, one of them says AND THE GANG and lists a bunch of Tarantino regulars. And better still, one of the names is Tim Roth, with "(cut)" in parenthesis afterward. Every end credits should include the cut roles! Respect.

brandon   8.5  ]
Corto   10.0  ]

Weighted Rating : 7.7
No. Ratings : 3
No. Reviews : 1

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