Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is Tarantino’s highly personalised tribute to the 60s. But his mastery of filmmaking still engulfs you in incredible joy.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Synopsis
Television western star Robert Dalton languishes in middle age, struggling with his declining popularity and career. In contrast, Dalton’s dedicated stunt double Cliff Booth accepts life’s challenges with stoicism. He’s also a constant companion to Dalton and willing to do whatever it takes to secure work. When casting agent Marvin Schwarz recommends that Dalton take on spaghetti western roles, Dalton grudgingly accepts after encouragement by Booth. Meanwhile, famed director Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate move into the estate next to Dalton’s. Elsewhere, a murderous plot involving the Polanskis begins to hatch.
Nowadays, it appears that every other major cinematic release will be the subject of intense criticism and backlash. In the case of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, I’d say some of the criticism rained onto it isn’t undeserved. After all, this is through and through, Tarantino’s highly opinionated and highly personalised homage to 60s Hollywood.
But, I still enjoyed the movie. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I celebrated with heavy Ramen binging after watching. And that’s because:
- This isn’t just a fanboy tribute. It’s as immersive as it gets for a 2D experience. Watch the movie in the right cinema and you will feel transported to 60s California.
- Hollywood’s prettiest guys of the 90s prove that they are doubly irresistible in middle age. In a way, DiCaprio’s Dalton also mirrors the actor’s own efforts to transit from pretty face to acting heavyweight.
- You know what, I was glad Tarantino did the ending that way. You can condemn his decision as “revisionist,” but I’ve long wondered about the point of regurgitating well-documented tragedies on screen. Yes, even when there are efforts to infuse additional insights, these opinions themselves are often also the subject of condemnation. Conversely, going for an alternate take on things, and being unabashed about it, invokes a certain unbridled joy.
- I would have preferred more lines and heavier plot involvement. But Margot Robbie does project Sharon Tate’s famous ethereal beauty.
As for that controversial Bruce Lee segment, I have the following to say:
I felt uncomfortable. Whether I personally agree with it, or not, Bruce is still a Chinese cultural icon. Misguided as it might be, he continues to represent the ability of the Chinese people to thrive in a white-heavy environment.
On the other hand, the truth is that 99 percent of us will never know for sure how “Siew Loong” was like on set, half a century ago. All we can depend on are statements by people we will likely never meet. Correspondingly, as a Chinese, if I’m offended by Tarantino’s take, am I indignant for Bruce’s sake or offended that my racial worldview has been challenged? Honestly, these considerations are way too befuddling for my taste and so I refrain from thinking about them. I prefer to remember the whole scene lasted less than five minutes. End of the day, it’s also just a movie.