Double Take – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Posted 10.02.20

Why I loved/hated Once Upon A Time In Hollywood…

Jamie Maple [Strategy Director]:
The recreation of the LA of the 60s is incredible – it feels complete without being a pastiche. You’re invited to spend time in it and you get a vivid sense of place across three days in the life of three intersecting characters. You spend time with them at home, in the car, and at work – it’s a classic hang out film.

The final hour of the film where the actual historical events merge with fiction is a masterclass in ratcheting up the tension. The whole thing felt like a catharsis and is a good example of the way Tarrantino explores the effect – and aftermath – of acts of violence (in a way that so many other action films tally up a body count seemingly without a second thought). The violence is shocking but personally having some knowledge of the actual people and what they did felt like a preemptive ‘revenge’.

I was also so happy that Charles Manson is a footnote in this story – that he and his moronic acolytes don’t get to win. Sharon Tate has always been a footnote to the stories of Manson and Roman Polanski – OUATIH gives her an inner life. The scene where she watches real-life Tate in the cinema and you see her start to realise that her career is about to start (paralleled with Rick Dalton’s career about to end) is as heartbreaking as it is uplifting (dirty foot shots aside – oh Quentin!). The fact that we end the film with all of the characters about to start a new phase of their careers made me feel really emotional.

Flossie Joseph [Strategist]:
Firstly it was too long. No films, especially ones with such an erratic plot should be 2 hours 40 minutes. ALSO if a film is already looking to be 2 hours 40 minutes, don’t shoot a long scene, have Leo mess up and shoot it again. I saw it the first time, I didn’t care, I don’t want to see it again.

The final scene, all Tarantino-esque was great, and the concept I’ll admit is a fun one, but none of those 2 hours that preclude it particularly helped that final twist in any way. It was just men being self-indulgent and Margot Robbie skipping around Hollywood and flicking her pretty blonde hair. There were more shots of women’s feet than chances for them to speak.

We all know that Tarantino, Brad and Leo are great, but don’t rest on that. Do better. Perhaps if he wrote more interesting and diverse characters the Oscars wouldn’t be so white privilege this year. They’ve had their time to shine, let’s hear someone new talk now.

Jamie Maple [Strategy Director]:
But…. but the driving!

I don’t see the plot as erratic but vignettes of lives being lived on the cusp of stardom (Tate), in the twilight of their significance (Leo) and on the outskirts of relevance (Brad). The scene where Leo fucks up his lines is a key character moment that shows you the stakes for his character – he may be on the outs but he wants to go down swinging.

The self-indulgent-men-of-it-all feels like a comment on who gets to tell their stories. Charlie’s women on the ranch are telling themselves a story of living outside of society and self-righteously rejecting the ways of the world with violence. Brad Pitt’s character spins himself a myth about beating up Bruce Lee while other people tell tales about his marriage. Steve McQueen tells the story about Tate, Polanski, and Sebring at the Playboy mansion – effectively claiming to know the truth about their situation. All of this is played out while we see an alternative story about a woman whose own story has been told only alongside the stories of other men (Manson and Polanski).

The fact that the voting board of the Oscars cast their votes because they are old and white and probably recognised the Hollywood of the 60s that QT depicted is the problematic thing for me – not the film itself.

Flossie Joseph [Strategist]:
I would like to rebuttal by saying I am also a QT fan. His violence doesn’t bother me, and that final part of the film was not at all my issue with it. In fact, it was the only redeeming part for me. I spent the whole time feeling like I was missing something, and I’ve never felt that way about any of his other films.

I liked that concept and wish the whole film was more of a “what if”. Instead what it was for me, was a whole lotta nothing. I’m a busy girl, (a short attention-spanned millennial) I haven’t got time for these dragged out, irrelevant interactions. I also hate Westerns, and cowboys, and tumbleweeds and deserted land, and the way they talk, so really not the one for me.

Don’t you think it could have been more powerful if instead, it was a has-been Hollywood actress, maybe “too old” for the industry now, and kicked aside trying to get back in and her ballsy stunt double that was eventually the ones to save the day, and not Brad and Leo. Not trying to suggest we female Ghostbuster/Oceans 8 everything, but when it’s fictional and you’re making something completely from scratch, I think it’s important to remember it doesn’t always have to be about good looking white men being heroes. I’m so over it.

Maybe Hollywood in the 60s was completely dominated by able-bodied, straight, white men, so it had to be factually correct. And I’m not saying they didn’t act well, or should never act again. But we will never get diverse representation in awards if we keep making films like this. When it’s fictional history, that’d be the perfect time to mix it up.

Jamie Maple [Strategy Director]:
Love the idea of a washed-up female actor and her stunt double (although you’re basically putting in an order for even more feet). What if it was like Titanic and there was some auld lady telling the story of the night some hippy pricks broke into her house and she killed them…. but….. plot twist….. it’s Sharon Tate! She’s still alive! AND SHE’S GOT THE HEART OF THE OCEAN!!!!!

You and I will NEVER agree on the too long/make it longer debate. That’s possibly a taste thing. I also respect your aversion to Westerns. The fact that they were the most popular form of entertainment at the time but told a fake story of a recent past in a way that made heroes and villains out of people who were more nuanced is both a strong historical detail and a fun allegory but if you’re not massively into tumbleweeds then you’re already out before it starts.


Jamie Maple, Strategy Director & Flossie Joseph, Strategist – Wilderness Agency