Sunday, December 15, 2019

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Wouldn't it be great if we could re-write history? Quentin Tarantino does just that, with his latest film.   I should preface this review by admitting that I have only liked a handful of Tarantino movies.  But it appears that he has progressed as a filmmaker, judging by his latest achievement, "Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood".  This film is not only a super-entertaining depiction of 1960s pop culture - it is a loving tribute to those who didn't make it to the 1970s, who should have.

Tarantino did a lot of research into 1960s culture and history. His story is set in the year 1969.
That year brought us Woodstock and the Apollo Moon landing, which was historic, magical, and epic. But it was also the year that my 16-year-old sister was killed in a car accident, devastating my family permanently. In 1969, the Beatles performed in their last public performance together, Senator Edward Kennedy's car skidded off a bridge, resulting in the death of his 28-year-old passenger Mary Jo Kopechne. The year ended with the Rolling Stones' disastrous Altamont concert, and the death of Meredith Hunter.

Oh yes - and then there were the Tate-LaBianca murders. The victims seemed to receive far less press coverage than the Manson family. Even recently, I read Dianne Lake's memoir: "Member of the Family", about her time at the Spahn Ranch, and what led up to the subsequent killings, with way more written about the perpetrators of that ghastly slaughter than about the innocent targets of their murderous depravity. There are many films and books produced about Manson and his band of followers, but almost nothing of significance about their victims.   The affect that those murders had on Hollywood - and even for the rest of us, back then - has reverberated throughout the decades.  The images stay in our minds.  
History aside, two fictional characters dominate "Once Upon a Time..." with performances by actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt that are definitely Oscar-worthy. Both actors have sunk their teeth into their roles with gusto, a definite treat for viewers. 

"Don't let the Mexicans see you crying." 
DiCaprio plays introspective leading man t.v. star Rick Dalton.  You rarely see Dalton without a drink in his hand or a cigarette in his mouth. Regrets are many, as he is reminded that his youth and bankability have passed him by.  There is plenty of scenery-chewing by DiCaprio, who shines as the seasoned pro that he is. 
Pitt plays the part of Dalton's stuntman Cliff Booth to perfection. Booth is not introspective, except perhaps in one scene where he winds up daydreaming while fixing an antenna on Dalton's roof. Otherwise, he is just a "live and let live" kinda guy - unless he is crossed.  Then, watch out! 

I have to say that I was very impressed by the casting of Bruce Lee, Steve McQueen, and Cass Elliott.
The details and authenticity of "Once Upon a Time..." are enough to give those of us who were alive back then the "suspension of disbelief" we need, without our saying too often: "But wait a minute - it wasn't like that."
The music, fashions, products, technology, transportation, cinema, television actors, shows, commercials, and other signs of 1960s pop culture are authentic enough to pass muster.  He did his homework. Any discrepancies or inaccuracies are minor.  

Yet in addition to creditable details, we find the blessings of fiction, for this is not a documentary, and not made to be.  There are Tarantino's usual fanciful meanderings into scenes that go slightly off-path. They are great character studies, though. and are fun to watch, which is really the point.

I'm thinking that this one will be taking home the bulk of the Oscars.  Hollywood especially has needed this one, I think.  

No comments:

Post a Comment