Sunday, August 4, 2019

Tarantino's "Hollywood" an uninspired fairytale

In his 9th feature film, the (arguably) most original living American filmmaker, Quentin Tarantino, has turned the last decade of the 1960s Hollywood upside on his head.  A loose adaptation on the Charles Manson infamous 1969 murders of actress (and wife of then Roman Polanski) Sharon Tate (played by Australian Margot Robbie), Once Upon a Time in Hollywood... mixes real people of the time with a touch of Tarantino-esque fiction (the sort he used in 2009's Inglorious Basterds, but to a much more effective result) to give us a movie that is epic in length but short on bravura excitement that the director's best works are usually known for.

As Rick Dalton, the soon-to-be-over-the-hill star of a famous 1950s Western TV show, Bounty Law, Leonardo DiCaprio does some of his best acting, portraying the frustrated actor with just the right touch of self-aware decline, alcohol abuse and anger.  It's unfortunate, however, that he inhabits a film so absent of plot. Many scenes feel absolutely pointless: Tate watching her own movie in a theatre while dangling her feet on the seat in front of her; Dalton having a heart-to-heart about life with a young female co-star; and the most superfluous of all was the long set-up (minus any payoff): Dalton's stuntman, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) asking to see an old acquaintance on a Los Angeles ranch occupied by strange hippies. Tarantino masterfully builds the tension, infusing it with foreshadowing of potential bloodshed, only to deliver us a ... flat tire (a metaphor for the entire film, I suspect).

By the time Hollywood... reaches its blood-filled (anti?) climax, most audiences are bound to be left with a similar thought: "Uhm, was that it?" The movie, sadly, never amounts to anything more than several scenes that feel as excerpts from a TV show of which no one's seen a single episode.  Once Upon a Time in Hollywood... is Tarantino as his absolute laziest: a movie that is homage to his own infatuation of a Hollywood era he worshipped as a child, but without a single thought to his audience's patience, for not every fantasy is worthy of 165 minutes of blah blah.