Ah, the 1960s. The Bay of Pigs disaster, Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland both overdosing, and police going to war with minorities and gay people. Truly a magical time.
But at least movies went through a renaissance? Eh?
In all seriousness, the 1960s were a prominent era in filmmaking. We saw many new directors burst onto the scene with innovative, boundary pushing stories that would forever change the Hollywood landscape. Audiences drifted from desiring squeaky, clean cut heroes for edgier anti-heroes with moral ambiguity. Stories started getting ballsier, more controversial. Counter-culture was in full swing, and by God, studios were going to harness that energy to make a stupid amount of money.
No one loves reminiscing on Hollywood like Hollywood itself. Every now and then we’ll get a feature that tries to highlight the magic of that bygone era to varying degrees of success. In 2019, resident 1960s fanatic Quentin Tarantino released his own reflection of the time period in the form of Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood. To my surprise, as well as plenty others, this is the least “Tarantino” film of Tarintino’s extensive history, but that still ends up being a good thing.
This film is unlike anything Tarantino has done before. Sure, some of his calling cards are sprinkled throughout the movie (he really put his foot down on that), but this isn’t a story of redemption, revenge or spiritual enlightenment. It’s a movie about the time period. You’re blanketed by the neon nostalgia of the past and are meant to take it in almost as if it was the main character itself. While we do follow a select few names throughout the story, it’s always about the era. But these aren’t the verbose, silver tongued, over the top characters we’ve come to expect from Tarantino. These are people just living their lives, and it works.
There are three main characters we dip in and out of focus on. The first is Leonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton, a wild west TV actor in the middle of a career crisis. DiCaprio’s self-doubting, self-hating, self-intoxicating Dalton is probably the funniest I’ve seen the actor since The Wolf of Wall Street. The man is possessed by manic energy and such low self esteem that you honestly feel bad for the famous actor. I honestly could’ve taken a whole movie of just him, but what we get is plenty entertaining.
Next to DiCaprio stands Brad Pitt in an equally entertaining role as Rick Dalton’s best friend and stunt double, Cliff Booth. While Dalton feels like the world is crumbling around him and everyone is out to get him, Cliff is just along from the ride. Nothing seems to ever phase the man, taking every road bump and inconvenience in stride, always seeming to be two steps ahead of everyone. Pitt’s over capable Cliff can border on “Gary Stu” territory at times, but his endless charm makes the character just endearing enough to enjoy watching.
Finally, we have Margot Robbie portraying the late actress Sharon Tate. At first glance, Robbie’s inclusion seems miniscule and inconsequential. We just follow her around as she goes to parties, buys a book, watches a movie, and lounges around her house. She hardly drives the plot forward and never encounters Rick or Cliff. However, as more elements in the story are introduced and you realize just when in history this story takes places, you begin to become more aware of Tate’s inclusion. Her role is unique in that regard as you witness her simply living life and indulging in what makes her happy. It’s nice to watch, yet all the sadder knowing she was taken from the world far too early.
Where this movie might lose people is how little narrative there is to it. We’re dropped into these character’s lives with little direction for where they’re going. Some scenes are simply dedicated to the gushing over the twinkling of Tinsel Town. There’s the aforementioned Sharon Tate day out on the town, and Cliff driving home after a day’s work listening to the radio and driving by various landmarks. It’s a slice of life more than it is a complete story. Some won’t like this, especially if you were hoping this would be like his past projects. However, I genuinely found it cozy and funny. I was glad to be along for the ride, even if it had no clear destination.
Without spoiling anything, the ending will divide people. You start to get an idea of what’s about to happen, but Tarantino pulls from his bag of tricks to make the ending uniquely his own. Personally, I loved it. If you’re hoping for a scene that is reminiscent of the Tarantino of old, then it might actually be your favorite scene of the whole film.
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood is a surprising change of pace from someone who’s style is so engrained in film history. I was happy to see Tarantino attempt a different stylistic and tonal approach that I felt was a success in many areas. I’m sure it was a disappointment for some. I completely understand the sentiment that it’s a 2 hour long movie where nothing happens for most of it. I understand, but I still had a hell of a good time with it.
Fret not. Perhaps his upcoming Star Trek movie will have all the blood, swearing and questionable use of racial slurs we’ve come to know Mr. Quantum Tarantula for.
Rick Dalton’s All-American
The Whiskey Sour is a classic, quintessential cocktail that has been around for who knows how long (I DO! NEARLY 150 YEARS!). It’s a personal favorite drink of one Rick Dalton, and I’m going to show you how to make a whiskey sour so good it’ll make you forget your damn lines. Just make sure to stop around 3 or 4. Don’t go drinking 8 of them. Now get out there and show that little girl, that goddamn Jim Stacey and all those people on that goddamn f*cking set who Rick Dalton is.
- 2 shots bourbon whiskey
- 1 ½ shots lemon juice
- 3/4 shots simple syrup
- 1 white egg
- 1 cocktail cherry
- Add whiskey, lemon juice and simple syrup to shaker
- Crack open the egg and pour the whites in. Alternatively, pour egg into a bowl and remove yolk manually.
- Add ice and shake well. It may take a good 30 seconds of shaking to mix the ingredients with the egg.
- Pour over ice and top with cherry.