Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood

I’ve slept on this review because I just haven’t been sure about what to say. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy this movie experience, quite the opposite. It’s by one of my favourite directors* so there’s a lot to love and I did enjoy it overall, I think it’s just that – there’s a lot to unpack.

All I’m really sure about is that I need another viewing STAT and next time probably in the comfort of my own home. Without two drunk Aussies sitting directly in front of me waving their arms about.

Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood

A faded television actor and his stunt double strive to achieve fame and success in the film industry during the final years of Hollywood’s Golden Age in 1969 Los Angeles.

The 9th Film from Quentin Tarantino.

*Spoiler*

My Review

Ageing movie and now TV star Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) is having a crisis of career confidence. Relegated to bad guy of the week guest spots, he’s reluctant to take his seasoned talent to Italy’s spaghetti westerns as suggested by big shot casting agent Marvin Schwarz (Al Pacino). His long time stunt double and now personal assistant Cliff Booth (Pitt) drives him around wherever he needs to go and that’s about it. When Dalton gets him a stunt gig on his latest project, Booth fucks it up by beating up the talent. The talent being one Bruce Lee (Mike Moh).

This leaves Booth at a loose end so it’s no wonder he ends up in the company of a prepubescent hippie girl at Spahn Ranch, home of the Manson Family. Meanwhile, Dalton’s next door neighbour, rising star Sharon Tate (Robbie) is on her own journey.

On the surface of it, that’s about it – except that we’re all familiar with the story of the Tate murders and this adds to the ambience. Plus its a QT movie so that’s never just it. As Robbie’s luminous Tate lights up the screen it’s with trepidation that we following her arc – knowing how it all ends. I honestly didn’t know what to expect or where they were going with the Manson connection and although the outcome was deeply satisfying, I’m still a little on the fence. Maybe because this isn’t the first film I’ve watched lately that tries to re-imagine that fateful night – The Haunting of Sharon Tate literally sets her up as a psychic who saves them all just in the nick of time.

OUATIH is infinitely better than the above-mentioned Hilary Duff vehicle obviously but I can’t help it coming to mind in relation. I’m also happy I finished Helter Skelter when I did. Spahn Ranch and the girls were exactly as I pictured them. While this Hollywood homage isn’t quite as steeped in QT’s signature flourishes, he does capture the essence of actually being there.

The performances are top notch, DiCaprio rarely gets it wrong but he’s absolutely brilliant as washed up Rick Dalton. Brad Pitt too plays his part with relish. Booth is an enigma really, followed through Hollywood by the rumour that he murdered his own wife but, apart from a brief flashback, we never find out more. This is clever on the director’s part as we never really know where we are with the seemingly good Booth. What matters here though is the friendship between the two male leads – and their chemistry is really something.

“Hey! You’re Rick fucking Dalton. Don’t you forget it.” ~ Cliff Booth

Some of my favourite scenes are between child actress Trudi (Julia Butters) and Dalton. I can’t understand how a kid can be that accomplished yet believable an actress but she’s incredible. She’s a little Margot Robbie in training.

“It’s official, old buddy. I’m a has-been” ~ Rick Dalton

My Comments

All of the above but also, I enjoyed the inclusion of the real Sharon Tate on the cinema screen when our Tate goes to watch herself. It was poignant and sad, Tate being such a sympathetic beauty by default. When I first watched this I thought anyone could have played Tate but I was wrong. Lovely Margot Robbie is so effervescent and gorgeous, she absolutely nails the sixties zeitgeist.

Like most people I’m more than a little interested in True Crime, so I was mostly here for Charles Manson, the central performances and because I can’t imagine not being intrigued about what Tarantino does next. Interestingly, Manson is only spied once for just a moment and this only adds to his mystique. The Family, more or less run in Manson’s absence by Gypsy (Lena Dunham), are intriguing enough in their own right. Booth’s meeting with George Spahn (Bruce Dern), under the watchful eye of Squeaky (Dakota Fanning) is very tense but hilarious.

Finally, while the climax is shocking in its sheer violence – even by my standards – now I’ve had a chance to sit with it, I kind of love the concept of a moment in time changing history forever. It ends on a hopeful note and that is kind of beautiful.

Shit, turns out maybe I loved it more than I originally thought.

Film details:

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Year: 2019
IMDB Rating: 8.3/10
My Rating:
4/5

What are you watching?

*Problematic fave

The Wolfpack (Film) Review

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This film, man. It’s different to anything we’ve reviewed before as part of our collaboration and that’s a good thing I think. I have no idea where to start on this documentary but I’ll give it a damn good go anyway, because that’s just the kind of girl I am.

I think that this will be the last in our Blog Free or Die Hard series for a while, in favour of Christmas movies (yey!). Jill and I haven’t discussed this at length yet, though we’re both totes up for it, so watch this tinsel encrusted space! (Basically, I cannot bloody wait).

Also, for the first time in forever I’m going to put the tree up before mid-December, so that gives you an idea of how festive I’m starting to feel.

But to the movie. As always *spoilers* ahead!

I might add here that my enjoyment of this film came in part from not knowing much about it. I got a brief synopsis but then deliberately didn’t dig any deeper because I didn’t want to spoil it for myself. I’m not afraid to admit that I wasn’t even sure it was a documentary.

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Awkward when six of you rock up in the same outfit

The Wolfpack (2015)

Director: Crystal Moselle
Stars: The Angulo Brothers (Bhagavan, Govinda, Jagadisa, Mukunda, Narayana, Krisna), Visnu (Sister), Chloe Pecorino

IMDB Synopsis: Locked away from society in an apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the Angulo brothers learn about the outside world through the films that they watch.

My Review:

The Angulo Brothers are six brothers, ranging from (at the time of filming) 11 to 18. They are Bhagavan, Govinda, Jagadisa, Mukunda, Narayana, Krisna. Confined to the four-bedroom, sixteenth floor apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan they share with their sister Visnu, and their mother and father, the boys are home schooled and rarely leave the building.

Mother Susanne educates the boys the best she can from the comfort of their own home, while they gain the rest of their life experience from the movies. Such favourites as Reservoir Dogs (1992) and The Dark Knight (2008) become their outlets, which they re-enact together and sometimes film on a shaky camcorder.

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Bat-ears and chill?

Oscar, the boys’ father guards the only front door key and strictly monitors (and more or less prohibits) unauthorised trips outside. He maintains that the streets outside are like a ‘prison’ and worries about the danger of drugs. This means that the boys have hardly set foot outside their door in all their life-times and never interact with anybody outside their family.

Things changed though, the day Mukunda (then 15) left the apartment without his father’s knowledge or permission and, in his own words, “one thing lead to another.” (Going out in a homemade Michael Myers mask can do that for you, yo). This documentary focuses on this event and how it changed things not only for Mukunda but for all the brothers.

The film is a patch work of home footage, interviews with the boys and clips of them re-enacting their favourite films. Tarantino is a regular feature, as are Christian Bale and Heath Ledger‘s Joker. The boys have the performances down, and play out each scene with painstaking detail.

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Clownin’ around

We learn more about Oscar and Susanne’s origin story, of how they met when they were young and idealistic, and how they came to be here. Susanne is loving and protective of her boys, though clearly regretful when it comes to how it all turned out.

Oscar, well I don’t understand a single word of what he says, even with subtitles. I don’t know what has driven his decision to keep his family virtual prisoners under his rule but I’m sure he believes it’s for their own protection.

He beats his wife (something the brother’s reveal) and there’s heavy implication that she’s even more controlled than her children, taking the brunt of his irrational behaviour. This isn’t really touched upon too much but there’s a lurking menace there in the background.

The boys, following their brother’s original escape, start to head out as a group and slowly but surely begin to interact with the world around them. Dad can’t stop them as they grow older and even Mum begins to reach outside their circle, by contacting her own mother who she hasn’t seen since she had her children.

I’m going to go with my opinion that the less you know about it, the more you’ll be blown away by this story and stop here. This post will be a little less waffley than usual as a result but there you go. I’ll obvs still be asking the hard-hitting questions because that’s my thing. So…

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On beach days we wear black

Questions:

How will/do the boys adapt to the outside world? Will they maintain traditional relationships, meet girls, make friends, etc?

What the fucking hell is Oscar on about in every single one of his interviews? Why did Susanne put up with all this in the first place?

And – how is it that each and every one of the Angulo brothers seems kind and lovely, and more importantly well-balanced, when they’ve lead anything but a normal life?

My Thoughts:

God. I watched this with my heart in my throat. It’s very emotional. It’s also crazy that this is a true story and that this family really exists.

The Angulo brothers are beautiful, with long, long hair but what stands out most about them is the purity of their souls (*vom* at my corny wording, but it’s true). I guess it’s their innocence we see primarily, they’re kind and gentle, and despite the fact there’s some very real anger and resentment between father and some of his sons, they never resort to bitterness.

Of course, we don’t know how things are when the cameras aren’t rolling but on the face of these interviews, they just seem lovely. I would like to hang with them, please.

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Our other car’s invisible

There are elements of this life I would like to know much more about, particularly the question of “Why?” (really how can this happen?). But also, I’d like to know more about their sister, Visnu who is described as “special” by one of the boys.

I just want more really, and could watch and listen to them for hours and hours. Their props and costumes, mostly constructed with paper, are incredible. Almost as impressive as the real thing!

Alas, I had to make do with this brief glimpse into a life less ordinary. I fear I’ve played this lovely film down but please, if you love the weird and wonderful, and the movies, this is one for you. Promise.

My Rating: 5/5 LOVED. I’m still thinking about it this morning with a mixture of awe and sadness, so that can only be a good thing.

What did Wifey think? Pop on over to see for yourselves.

NB: This Wiki page is really fascinating the and tells more about how the Director came into contact with the Angulos.