Once Upon A Time In Hollywood Actually Did Have A Fairytale Ending

When a friend texted me last week Tuesday and asked if I wanted to see a movie with her, I warily asked, “What movie?” She suggested we see Tarantino’s new film because there was nothing  else playing that she was interested in, and I paused to think before agreeing. Yes, this is my roundabout way of giving you, the reader, a caveat. I am not a big fan of Quentin Tarantino. Not that I wholly dislike him persay, just most of his movies. I was wholly bored by Pulp Fiction, enraged by Inglorious Bastards, and actually liked Kill Bill (1,2, and 3!!) until I really thought about the premise of women killing women and the possible motivations behind that particular plot tool. You may be outraged, as many people tend to be upon hearing this opinion, but in this case I think it gives me a unique perspective on what his movies have to offer. I have high expectations, yes, but expectations Tarantino should very well be able to satisfy as a celebrated director in the year 2019.  

Let’s start with a little summary. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, or OUATIH, is a film centered around actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo Decaprio), who got his start on a 1950s television Western but who’s lost his direction and spends most of his time drinking with old time pal and stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Dalton happens to live next door to director Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) and his wife Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), set a couple years before Tate becomes a victim of the infamous Manson murders. The story, rife with divergent plot tangents and semi-relevant character monologues, poses a sort of fairytale what-if: What would it look like if a pair of washed-up Hollywood bros came to be, through a series of convoluted and confusing events, in the right place at the right time and stopped the Manson murders? 

Basically, it looks like a story about a male friendship, which is really a cleverly disguised assistantship, and the struggles  the two men told through their perspectives with a little bit of historic crime thrown in on the side. The majority of the movie is about either Dalton’s failure to transition from successful T.V. actor to serious film star or Booth’s salacious relationship with a young hippie girl. And, as a side note, Sharon Tate’s hopes and dreams as an actress. Both Dalton and Booth, while given ample screen time for character development, lacked enough depth for me to really care about them as people. As the viewer, I felt sorry for Dalton. I mean, at some points he was downright pathetic. But he never really worked hard for what he got, so it was hard to feel glad for his minor successes. And Booth, well he’s an amalgamation of many things that made no sense to me. Possible wife killer, engaging in an inappropriate relationship with an underage girl, errand man, and surprising dog lover? 

Sharon Tate, on the other hand, was dutifully handled and subtly characterized in a masterful way, for the short amount of time devoted to her. Tate is afforded a short scene in the first half of the movie that serves as her “background” in which she attends a screening of a movie she stars in. It’s not much, but still Robbie was able to convey her innocence and desires, her personality and demeanor in a scene with almost no dialogue. It seemed as if Tarantino wanted us to like her, feel empathy for her, and feel sorry that she is eventually to be brutally murdered. So does that mean we’re supposed to treat Dalton and Booth as heroes when they prevent it from happening? Regardless, the film left me wanting, wanting so, so much more of Margot Robbie and her Sharon Tate. Who was this woman? The women so brutally and unfairly murdered. The woman who we all know, but know nothing about. Now that seems like a much more interesting story to me.