Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)

Quentin Tarantino’s latest effort has the same nostalgia-and-pop-culture-soaked streaks that the majority of his movies have, but here, there’s more sensitivity and vulnerability than his previous oeuvre. In the lead roles, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt are walking contradictions in the most interesting way possible: They’re both relics of the man’s-man culture of the late 1960s finding itself growing out of fashion, yet they share a deeply personal and strikingly intimate friendship that’s the core relationship in both their lives. As a matter of fact, the role that women play in the narrative seems deliberately besides-the-point, with a definite and omnipresent homoerotic vibe between DiCaprio and Pitt that suggests a closeted intimate relationship between the two. It’s an intriguing – if often meandering – narrative to focus on, and it’s a shame that it’s marred by its parallel storyline of the Charles Manson cult slowly encroaching on DiCaprio’s neighbors (which includes the doomed actress Sharon Tate, who was murdered along with her house guests by the Manson family in August 1969). The link is never particularly strong between the two co-existing narratives, and while the climax has some the revisionist, narrative-redefining twists that Tarantino specializes in (like in, say, “Death Proof” or even “From Dusk Till Dawn”), it borders on the tasteless here, and it’s hard not to see it as rather cavalier. So it’s not one of Tarantino’s finest, and while it has some strong elements and looks absolutely gorgeous, it’s somewhere between compelling and deeply misguided.

Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)

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