Friday, July 26, 2019

Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood

This review will contain spoilers. However, it will contain spoilers that I really wish I had known about before going to see the film.

I'm going to put this right up front: do you think about the Manson murders on a daily basis? I don't. I was vaguely aware that they happened, but they're not important to my life, nor was I under the impression that they were important to history in general. Apparently some people think they mark the end of an era (the fact that they conveniently happened at the end of a decade helps with that, but I wasn't particularly aware of what year they happened in, because again - not relevant to my life). Without an awareness of the particulars of the Manson murders, though, this movies makes not a damn bit of sense. Sure, the plot of the main characters is relatively coherent. DiCaprio's character is an actor struggling to deal with his declining fame, and that's fairly interesting, though told at a glacially plodding pace. Pitt's character is DiCaprio's character's stunt double who shares a bit of that plot and also dips into the Manson thing, except no one ever mentions that name. Then there's Margot Robbie's character, who wanders around being vacantly pretty, and who happens to live next door to DiCaprio's character with her husband, Roman Polanski. This is the part where people who actually know something about the Manson murders are going to think I'm an idiot. But honestly, the fact that Polanski has spent the last forty years in exile because he drugged and raped a 13-year-old is the only thing I think of when his name comes up.

So if you're going to see this movie, this is what you need to know: in real life, Charles Manson's followers brutally murdered Polanski's wife and some friends at Polanski's house while he was elsewhere. Tarantino clearly expects the audience to know that, and the movie doesn't make sense without that knowledge.

Other than that, you ask, how was the movie? Kinda boring, honestly. It is very long, and completely unhurried to get anywhere. Tarantino appears to expect that the audience will be satisfied with the atmosphere that he has created. That's what the trailer conveys, after all - it promises a stylish, sassy, groovy kind of movie. There is a bit of that, but there are also a lot of long, long tracking shots where nothing much happens. Many of them involve feet.

This is a Tarantino movie, so one might expect bloody, gratuitous violence. That is, after all, what he made his name on. This movie has only one scene of Tarantino-style violence, but it is pretty graphic and very specifically involves the mutilation of women. Just so you know.

As far as the craft of filmmaking goes - well, Tarantino is an artist. Aside from the gratuitous tracking shots, the cinematography is lovely. There is a lot of clever meta-ness to the film, since it involves actors playing actors making movies. Hollywood loves that stuff, and I'll be interested to see if it gets award nominations, or if the Academy will be scared off by the vandalized billboards. The acting is excellent, though I could really do without Emile Hirsch and his conviction for assault (strangling a woman to unconsciousness). Overall, though, I really can't recommend the film. It has its moments, but not enough of them, and with a severe lack of an editor willing to tell Tarantino that the movie didn't need to be 2 hours 45 minutes long. Or maybe it was a major feat getting it down that far, since James Marsden and Tim Roth filmed parts that didn't make it into the movie.

Performance: 4/5
Plot: 2/5
Production: 4/5
Overall: 2/5
Bechdel: Fail
Mako Mori: Fail

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