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Once Upon a Time In Hollywood

Wendy Ide in her mostly scathing review of Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time... In Hollywood (2019) entirely missed the point. Calling bits of it "a petulant dig at the # MeToo movement" and criticizing the "positioning of middle-aged white males as the real victims", the "polyester version of Steve McQueen", and the "cheap shot at Bruce Lee." Really, Wendy, are you serious? How could you not view all this as satire? And what, pray tell, did you expect from a Tarantino movie?

What she got right: This is a film set in a stunningly evoked Hollywood past. I wasn't there, no, but the film captures a certain essence I've always imagined of the time and place, and a kind of restiveness, as if everyone was aware back then that big changes were coming but had no idea what they'd be, which is a brilliant fit for the twisted unreality we're given at the end of Once Upon a Time...

Tarantino has mythologized the last year of Hollywood's golden era, a time when films like Easy Rider (1969) were sparking a new era of film-making, with the balance of creative control shifting towards directors like Roman Polanski, Francis Ford Coppola, and Martin Scorsese, and away from the almighty mega-studios. With the myth, Tarantino also gives us a fictional substitute for the events we all know actually transpired, an alternative but comparably extreme rush of violence—a we-all-wish-that'd-been-so act of revenge on the Manson Family. Yes it's dark. Black humor rarely gets this morbid and ludicrous. That's Tarantino. That's the entertainment he offers. This time with stellar performances by Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Al Pacino, and ten-year-old Julia Butters.


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