Once Upon A Time In…Hollywood

In 2009 I watched one of Quentin Tarantino’s film for the first time. Kill Bill completely captivated me. After that viewing, I had to watch every movie of his and I did. For a number of years, I considered him my favorite working director. Even though I had heard people accuse him of stealing from other films, but like other Tarantino defenders, I didn’t want to hear it. I just ignored those accusations and continued to love his films. But as time went by I ended up exploring more films of the past. The more I watched the more I realized how much he has taken from filmmakers from prior decades. He always calls what he does homage, but I call it stealing. It’s perfectly fine to reference films that inspired you, but when you take music, scenes, characters, and entire plots from other films. That’s a problem. Now time to talk about his newest film.

What I liked

When the film first started I did have a smile on my face. That’s because the first act of the film is sprinkled with footage from a fake 50s television series called “Bounty Law”. These are my absolute favorite parts of the film. I truly wish Bounty Law was the movie. I love the idea of this, pulpy, 1950s western series starring Leonardo Dicaprio. The film is as much a love letter to classic television as it is a love letter to the film industry. Anytime Leo is on a set and acting in a western is wonderful and they give him great people to play off of in those scenes. I truly wish his character was the only one we focused on. His journey is the most interesting and would make for a much tighter and likable movie. Before I watched this film I was fearful of how they were going to handle Sharon Tate, but they do actually handle her well. There is a great sequence where she goes to the movie theater to watch her own film. She is so utterly delighted at the reaction from the audience for the film. It is very heartwarming and the best use of her on-screen.

What I didn’t like

I said above that I enjoyed the scene of Sharon Tate watching her own movie, but there is an element that takes you out of it. Margo Robbie plays the part of Sharon Tate and is the one sitting in the theater, but the actual film is playing. You see the real Sharon Tate in the real movie. This just shows you how much Robbie doesn’t look anything like the real-life actress. They could’ve inserted her in these scenes of the film, but that doesn’t turn out very well either. They do that multiple times with Dicaprio and it straight up looks bad. At no point in time did I actually ever feel like he was in the material that they tried to insert him in. It always felt like a person in the now standing in front of a green screen.

I think it’s safe to say that Tarantino has never been good at writing people of color. Especially Latinx people. We always seem like an afterthought to him. We are always minor characters or even just background characters. Even when we’re not on screen he will use our existence as an excuse to throw around racial slurs. The opening scene of Pulp Fiction comes to mind when Tim Roth describes us as “A bunch of wetbacks in the kitchen”. There were several moments that made me feel very uncomfortable as literally the only person of color in a packed theater.

The first scene that comes to mind is what I felt as a disrespectful portrayal of the legendary Bruce Lee. He is shown as being extremely cocky, which he may have been in real life, but in the film, he does not possess the skill to back up his attitude. He gets into a fight with Brad Pitt’s character and more or less gets his ass handed to him. My audience found this to be very funny. As they did whenever Bruce Lee would say anything. Not everything he said was to be taken as a joke, but my audience laughed the entire time he was on screen because they found the way he simply spoke to be humous. I obviously felt very uncomfortable as the only person in the crow not laughing.

There is another scene where Leonardo Dicaprio utters the racial slur “Beaner” during one of his performances. There is no real reason for his character to do so. Yet another character congratulates him on his choice of the word. Yet again, the rest of my audience found his use of the word very humous while I sat there silently. Not to mention the scene in the parking lot where Leonardo Dicaprio is getting emotional and Brad Pitt tells him “Don’t cry in front of the Mexicans.” He is referring to the valet attendants that are kind of there. Just like all the other Latinx characters are just there as background characters to simply fill out a scene.

I don’t even want to get into the fact that he chose to use Roman Polanski as a character in the film or the casting Len Dunham. As you can tell I have more issues with the film than things that I enjoyed. I can’t even begin to describe the climax of the film where our “heroes” kill brainwashed teenage girls in the most cartoonish ways possible in order to save the day and change history. That is the point where I 100 percent lost faith in this film. Which kind of hurts to say because there are performances and scenes that do really work for me. I just wish we could’ve had a much shorter film that still focuses on a love for Hollywood, yet just didn’t have extremely problematic elements that made this film kind of a turnoff.

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