This review contains spoilers, because idk lol. I don’t give a fuck
Leonardo “nooo don’t turn 25 ur so sexy aha” DiCaprio andBrad “the Br in Brangelina” Pitt star in Quentin Tarantino’s 3-hour video essay on why man do bad thing still good, Once Upon a Time In Hollywood. The two respectively play an actor and a stunt double falling into obscurity, battling their egos and pride. Sharon Tate is also there, because this movie is also an alternate reality of the Manson Family murders.
It’s strange to discuss Tate as one of the main characters, as she doesn’t really exist as somebody outside of a male fantasy. She appears like a sexy fever dream, dancing and enchanting men around her and showing no sign of character development, or independent thought (besides “pregnant melancholy”???).
Tarantino has said of the matter that, “I thought it would both be touching and pleasurable and also sad and melancholy to just spend a little time with her, just existing. I didn’t come up with a big story and have her work into the story so now she has to talk to other characters and move a story along. It was just a day in the life.” There’s something Jeanne Dielmann-esque about the statement, to just watch someone exist. But while Jeanne Dielmann dove into the fragility of the domestic vision, it traps Tate. She is robbed of agency and lacks the complexity and multitudes that a human being would exert into existence.
When read further, the depiction becomes frustrating in the was they treat her role in Polanski’s life. OUATIH has Leo’s character gushing over the director’s visionary work, written as if Tarantino wasn’t completely aware of Polanski having fled the country for raping a child. These comments don’t stand alone in this justification of statutory rape (with an implied minor seeking out statutory rape in another), as well as Tarantino’s own comments on that pesky Polanski situation.
With this in mind, the film becomes less a romantic vision for the cinematic age of what Tate represented and more a what-if of Polanski’s life: that if Tate hadn’t gotten herself murdered, Polanski wouldn’t have been driven to commit multiple accounts of pedophilia. And if he didn’t have toflee the country for his charges, imagine the incredible body of work he could have created! To suggest Tate’s role in life was to stop Polanski from committing child sex abuse is insulting to every woman who was assaulted by him, and insulting to her memory. It’s not a woman’s job to stop men from doing bad things.
And to those who don’t want a feminist analysis and want a real review of the film, the fact of the matter is that it is messy and lacks clear direction. OUATIH ranks self-indulgence over storytelling, where lack of motives for characters means lack of payoff for the finale. Where Leo represents every actor QT wishes he could save, Brad the Mary-Sue of Tarantino’s wet dreams, and Margot Robbie doing her darnedest to make something out of absolutely nothing, the storylines of the three leads aren’t cohesive. They meander singularly through the plot until the Manson Family brings them all together, and that cartoonish violence does more to maintain an aesthetic of Old Hollywood villainy than create a narrative. Unlike the Nazis of Inglorious Basterds, the teen in a turtleneck is only an unsettling presence if you know exactly who the Manson Family are. It’s not common knowledge in the way the Third Reich was, so audiences are left empty wondering why it all happened in the first place.
Jumping between Leo’s thespian outbursts, Tate’s aimless wandering andLena Dunham for some fucking reason, the film oscillates wildly in tone and genre. While one can argue this has worked for QT in the past (see Kill Bill and Pulp Fiction), these rambled tangents clumsily stagger towards the patented gore-filled finale.
At its heart UOATIH is a personal piece, a love letter to Tarantino’s childhood, but when the only thing that ties the characters together is nostalgia, it’s not enough. It’s as if artificial intelligence chewed up Tarantino’s earlier work and spat it out again and it made 122 million dollars. At its worst, it is a justification of violent men’s art over the violent acts they do to women. At its best, it’s a cheap imitation of Tarantino’s earlier work. But it’s got blood and a good soundtrack, so the fanboys will stay happy.
0/10: The number of toes QT can suck. The bastard.