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David Poland

By David Poland

Review: Once Upon A Time … In Hollywood (spoilers)

I’ve seen Quentin Tarantino’s 9th Film, Once Upon A Time … in Hollywood three times so far. I usually watch his films twice before writing, checking my most intense reactions against a second view. This time, I must admit that I have been trying to connect to a clearer reaction and I still am.

The easy stuff seems easy. DiCaprio and Pitt are both skilled actors and iconic movie stars and this is on display in all kinds of ways. Pitt, in some ways, recreates the spirit what is perhaps his most beloved character, Floyd of the Tarantino-written True Romance, about a decade older and living 25 years earlier in American history. He’s still a natural couch surfer and stoner. He is still indestructible through the power of his personality. But he also has been weaponized by a war and a miserable marriage. Unlike Rick, Cliff doesn’t seem to actually be a bigot. But he is wary. He embodies many of the ideals of white male strength with which a child of World War II would have been raised, the prime exception being success.

Rick is a mirror reflection of Cliff, as their roles as actor and stunt double would suggest. He has not been weaponized. He is soft. And he has magic… but he works incredibly hard to prove it, somehow so ashamed by the ease of it that he can’t relax into its pleasures. What Cliff can do with his bare hands and his well-trained dog, Rick needs a flame thrower to not quite match. He is the successful but aggrieved by the coming future that he has no control over.


Speaking of The Dog… this too is a doppelgänger match between dog and master. Cliff has been tamed, to a degree. But like his dog, Brandy, he is able to deliver lethal, perfect violence on demand in an instant.

And this is why Once Upon A Time … is hard to dismiss as an empty vessel for Quentin’s kitsch obsessions. Just setting up the foundations of the two leads and the dog requires three full paragraphs.

The third major character in this film is Sharon Tate. Margot Robbie’s performance of pure, seemingly unconsidered sunlight is the best of the film. Yes, it is nearly a silent role. But it is critically so. Lovingly so. She isn’t playing dumb. But she isn’t showing herself to be particularly smart. She just is. There isn’t a moment without a light coming from her eyes and literally a rhythmic bounce in her step, whether music is playing or not.

The fourth major character is The Manson Family. All of it. But mostly, the women/girls. Charles is barely a part of the movie, except as a threatening idea. And with the women/girls of Manson comes the question of whether they are meant to be a flip side to the Sharon Tate character, as Rick is to Cliff. They share her youth and some of her exuberance. When we meet them, they are singing a camp song in unison. But while Tate is wanted and desired endlessly, these young women have had to find a place to feel at peace with themselves.

The great question around the film is how this all fits together.

The real-life murder of Tate and the rest (barely footnotes in the film) symbolize an end of the hope and love of the 60s era to many people. In the fictionalized narrative of this film, the focus of this element seems to be on the women, not the men. The young and aggrieved women are on their way to kill the hope and love that they were not so lucky to obtain as a matter of fate.

There really is no explanation in the film why the group, led by a weak, fearful boy in Fictionalized Tex Watson, veers off to Rick’s house instead of the house they were sent to by Manson. It could just be a mistake. He could be wanting revenge for the humiliation of being sent away by “Jake Cahill.” The plan could be to kill Cahill and then head up the hill to kill the residents of the Tate/Polanski residence. There is no yellow Cadillac to suggest that Tex or the women/girls recognize that Cliff, who “escaped” Tex’s threat of gun violence at The Spawn Ranch might be there. The audience just isn’t told why.

(I am writing off the illogic that Cliff somehow returns to the house without seeing the car full of Mansonians or the trio walking up the hill to Rick’s house. But I would not be shocked to find out that this and the lack of an explanation of the diversion by the Manson Trio were lost in an edit, things that could have slowed the pace and/or been too clear for QT’s tastes at that point.)

But there is no question that the violent, male machismo of the late Greatest Generation, stops the incursion of the grievance part of hippiedom on the hope and love part of hippiedom. And for no other reason but its own survival.

But what does that mean? Is it meaningful or is it just Tarantino fantasizing and amusing himself (and audiences)?

Of course, Rick gets to be the hero of the erasure of the Manson threat, just moments after Cliff is carted off in the ambulance, having basically taken on all three of the attackers. Rick thinks of himself as a key participant, as he fried a young lady who may well have already been mortally wounded by Cliff and Brandy.

There are dozens of other doppelganger moments in the film. There is the repetition of “I never had a chance,” which is spoken by Steve McQueen about having a relationship with Sharon Tate and by Rick about almost maybe getting the role in The Great Escape that transformed McQueen a couple years after Wanted: Dead or Alive, which seems to be the reference for Rick’s TV series in the film, Bounty Law, that Rick leaves for a failed film career.

We open with a look at Bounty Law, but the actual start of the movie is after the show is gone and Rick’s movie career has stalled out. So is Rick a winner or a loser? Are we meant to think that the offer by Pacino’s Marvin Schwarzs is a good sign or a bad sign, given that we in the audience know that the spaghetti westerns propelled Clint Eastwood to his run with Don Siegal that made him a full-on movie star? Even at the end of the movie, Rick has made 4 films in 6 months in Italy, but sees it as the end of his road.

Rick tells the young actress, Trudi, the story of his western novel, which is pretty precisely the story of Cliff, though he thinks it is his own story. This is made more evident late in the movie when Cliff takes a knife to the hip, which will surely not kill him, but will likely slow him down from the physical skills he shows (especially getting to the roof of Rick’s house).

Pitt is a too-good-looking-to-be-a-stuntman stuntman while Kurt Russell is too… but Kurt’s character still has the wife who keeps his manhood in a sack hanging from her belt.

Jay Underwood and Roman Polanski are Sharon Tate’s doppelganger short, handsome waif men.

James Stacy, who is a real actor (played here by Timothy Olyphant), whose real series, Lancer, was piloted around the time of the movie’s timeline and actually directed by Sam Wanamaker aspires to what Rick has achieved. And in historic fact, Lancer ran 51 episodes before Stacy became a perennial bit TV player. So he got what Rick had then unlike Rick, never took a next step of significance.

We don’t know at the end of Once Upon A Time …  whether Rick will find his Don Siegel or even if Roman Polanski will end up being that to him or if he will still end up selling his house, buying a condo, losing the Italian starlet, and disappearing into obscurity.

We can also wonder whether Clint Eastwood and Don Siegel would have had the successes they had together (Coogan’s Bluff, Two Mules for Sister Sara, The Beguiled, Dirty Harry) had it not been for the Manson family sending the flower power era into a more conservative direction (as has been suggested by Joan Didion and others, leaving your sense of hyperbole to decide).

Like I wrote before… there is plenty of kitsch – and I have barely scratched that surface – but there is other stuff bubbling beneath it which isn’t clear, but is interesting.

And there is the very real possibility that Quentin is just doing what Quentin does… reconsider genres, whether one at a time or a few at a time. Go down the list… the heist movie, the Blaxploitation romance, the chop socky, the grindhouse, the Nazi war movie, the action slave movie, and the Agatha Christie. Of course, they are all twisted up with other genre conceits. The two that are the hardest to categorize (and are not in that list) are Pulp Fiction and Once Upon A Time …, which are both closer to being anthology movies. For me, when I think of directors that are emulated in OUATIH, I think Altman first. QT has none of the specific Altman quirks. But there is a rambling quality and an emphasis on performance that reminds me of Altman.

I haven’t addressed the physical abuse of women in this film and throughout his history. I can’t make an argument against the anger of some about this. Men take a lot of abuse in this film and all the others as well. But Tarantino was created by the heat of an era when women were objectified in much of film by an endless parade of white male directors. I don’t find it misogynistic. Zoe Bell is right. Sharon Tate is a goddess here. One could say that Squeaky Fromme comes off as strong and clear and smart and in control, however ugly her circumstances. So I am not outraged.

I haven’t spoken to the relative silence of the Sharon Tate character because I think the silence performance is brilliant and speaks quite directly to what he was trying to achieve, which was to deify her. She is the only pure thing in the film.

I haven’t mentioned one of the best sequences in the film, which is Rick’s day on Lancer, from his arrival to his encounter with Trudi (amazing child actor turn) to his self-abuse to a true movie star performance in a shitty little western TV show that rises beyond the way it does sometimes and you know a guest star on Law & Order is going to be a star for real. From that section, the audience knows what Rick really is and what he isn’t, no matter how he feels about himself.

And of course, that sequenced is intercut with Cliff at the Spawn Ranch, also showing us everything about who he is.

But discussing how much I like any sequence doesn’t seem to be the point here.

So how do I feel about the movie?

I don’t really have an answer. Still. It sure felt to me like I was building to a statement of believe in writing this piece. But no.

I don’t think it is a masterpiece.

I do think Quentin is a mad cinematic genius.

I don’t seek easy answers from movies, but I am also not expecting chaos from masterpieces unless that is clearly the means to an end.

I do think this is the most complex cinematic experience of the year-to-date from a major studio.

I will see it again. Maybe more than once (making 4).

I could write a whole 1500-word piece about all the things that push me out of the movie. But that doesn‘t seem helpful. Still, they exist.

This is a movie that people who love movies have to see. It will evolve in time. For a lot of people. For me. Maybe for you.

There is so much to chew on and so many blind alleys and misdirections. Perhaps that is just the nature of the beast.

Acid-dipped cigarette, anyone?

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64 Responses to “Review: Once Upon A Time … In Hollywood (spoilers)”

  1. Steve Chipman says:

    Isn’t the idea, as discussed in the car “kill the TV people who taught people to kill”, that they are there to kill Rick? Cliff is just an unfortunate problem they run into in this quest.

  2. Geoff says:

    Lovely write-up Dave even though I’m not sure that I agree with much of it – granted I have only seen the movie once but the whole thing is SO deliberately paced and every period detail is lingered on so much, I’m not so sure there is as much subtext as you’re giving Tarantino credit for….it’s all pretty much on the surface, we’re meant to root for the two old guard protagonists and every other character is secondary to that goal. I kind of dug the movie, it’s definitely an improvement on The Hateful Eight but it’s not even in the upper half of Tarantino’s filmography.

  3. Joe Dante says:

    All this fevered analysis of what to me seems one of Tarantino’s most impassioned movies reminds me of the fact that so many of the pictures we revere today as classics were controversial, unappreciated, misunderstood and/or (god forbid!) boxoffice busts in their day.

    It’ll be interesting to see how all this brouhaha will play when we revisit it ten years from now. In the meantime, let’s be thankful we have a studio movie of substance to debate in a world of carbon copy superhero tentpoles.

  4. Juan says:

    Dear David:

    I tend to agree with most of your review but once you mentioned James Stacy (and referred to him by QT) you enter into the darkness of life. James Stacy’s possibilities of stardom vanished not by luck or lack of talent but by a motorcycle accident where his girlfirend was killed and he lost both one arm and a leg. His only two big film roles after that, were provided by the Douglas family (Something Wicked this Way Comes and Posse) and although he remained active a bit active on TV (twice Emmy nominated for his TV work), is personal life was a nightmare. In 1995 he pleaded no contest to a charge of molesting an 11-year-old girl, tried unsuccessfully to kill himself in Honolulu then served a 6-year prison sentence, finally dying in 2016 at the age of 9, possibly a suicide…. Why of all the TV actors and possible has-beens at the time, did Tarantino pick Stacy to resucitate for this film? A pregnant Tate and the others were murdered, Polansky lated had sex with a minor, Stacy molested an 11-year old child…yes, all this happened once upon a time in hollyood… Thank God the studio changed their minds about opening the film on the exact date of the Manson murders as they originally planned…

  5. movieman says:

    What Joe Dante said.

    (Not “the” Joe Dante, right?)

  6. palmtree says:

    DP, I think you’re reading more into it, because it’s about Hollywood and you have familiarity with the time period and/or subject matter. So you’re filling in the blanks.

    As far as what the movie is actually doing, I agree with Geoff. It’s surface level, even if it is a tantalizing surface. Sharon Tate being deified isn’t complex; it’s just glorified wish fulfillment. Stuntmen being mirrors/foils of their actors is an interesting idea. But again, Cliff is so idealized that QT robs of him of true complexity.

    I enjoyed the movie on a visceral level, but I wouldn’t mistake the joys of nostalgia and wish fulfillment to be anything complex or subtle. To me, this movie was a blunt instrument, and what it’s in service of is boringly simple.

  7. Stella's Boy says:

    Well-said palmtree. I don’t get the idea that this movie is unappreciated (certainly can’t say it’s a box office bust and basically everything QT does is somewhat controversial). All I’ve seen is nearly universal praise and adoration. If anything I suspect it might not age well.

  8. Sideshow Bill says:

    I think it is the real Joe Dante.

    And yes. I agree with him too.


  9. palmtree says:

    LOL that’s not Joe Dante. If he were, I’d think he’d be able to see that Cliff is pretty much a superhero. So…not really that different from what he appears to criticize.

  10. David Poland says:

    Really interesting, Juan. Had no idea of his history.

  11. David Poland says:

    Palmy… did I not say that a half dozen times through the piece? Not that it was me wanting to see something, but that the is a lot of stuff going on and it is difficult to determine how much was kitsch and how much was intentional?

  12. David Poland says:

    Pretty sure that was a mixed positive review, Stella Jr.

    In some ways, not sure it was even a review so much as an analysis. I am still unsure how I really feel about the film.

  13. Stella's Boy says:

    I wasn’t singling you out DP. I was speaking of my perception of the general response to the movie (in response to another comment above). It seems pretty overwhelmingly positive to me (with exceptions of course), and I don’t see how one could say it’s not being appreciated upon its release. I see appreciation all over the place (just don’t agree with it).

  14. J says:

    Great piece Dave. This is my favourite Tarantino other than Pulp Fiction. Brad Pitt has been my favourite actor for 25 years and it’s my favourite part he’s ever played. I’ve been meaning to read Helter Skelter for years and finally did so just before this film opened which worked out great and I definitely recommend. I intensely love the crazy violent last 20 minutes or whatever it is.

    I think critics tend to over-analyze some films. All of these 90 minute long podcasts searching for subtext and a hidden meaning to everything. I honestly think Tarantino just kinda thought it would be cool to do a buddy film, cast a couple of huge movie stars, work in a bunch of his movie/tv/music obsessions, do the period thing, and then have the two movie stars fuck up the Manson Family at the end. I’m not sure it’s really supposed to be a profound statement on anything.

    The scene on the boat was interesting. Cracked me up. Now there, maybe some subtext. Brad just went through a rough divorce. Hell, Quentin just got married.

    I wish someone could walk me through exactly how the casting went with Tom Cruise. Which role was QT considering him for? I’ve heard both Cliff and Rick. I wonder if Leo was hesitating and he was thinking of Cruise as Rick at one point. Supposedly Pitt was originally approached to play a detective or something? I’m so curious about how that casting process went for the leads. Did Cruise turn this down, as some have said? Did he want to do it and QT chose the other two?

    Yes I believe that is probably ‘the’ Joe Dante. He comments on H-E as well.

    Thank you Jesus for an ambitious original movie with real movie stars.

  15. Stella's Boy says:

    Yes the murder of a woman who’s a stereotypical shrew is just hilarious. Great comedy there.

  16. palmtree says:

    DP, yeah, you do question yourself, which is nice and all, but I was still responding to things you did say like:

    “And this is why Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood is hard to dismiss as an empty vessel for Quentin’s kitsch obsessions.”

    I wouldn’t call it entirely empty, but what’s there isn’t especially deep either.

    “Sharon Tate is a goddess here.”

    Of course, goddesses are great. But it’s not inherently interesting to watch someone run errands unless you know their real-life personal history and thus read more into it than was actually there.

  17. J says:

    Stella, he purposely leaves it ambiguous. There’s a reason he cuts away. He’s used this technique before.

  18. Stella's Boy says:

    I don’t think it’s ambiguous (see the other thread about this movie for a longer discussion on that) but either way the woman is killed and it’s played for laughs because gee whiz she’s so annoying and poor Cliff. It’s sick.

    Yeah I found all the scenes where Sharon does nothing to be pretty damn boring. She makes no impact.

  19. cadavra says:

    This is what Manny Farber used to call a “hole” movie (as opposed to a “donut” movie). It’s all about the sets and the music and the costumes and all the little winks and nods to the era that are carried out with almost surgical precision.

    What it doesn’t have is an actual plot. It’s just a collection of vaguely related scenes. (The comparison to Altman is indeed apt, particularly “Short Cuts.”) That doesn’t make it a bad film–I enjoyed it–but it certainly keeps it from being a great one.

  20. Sideshow Bill says:

    Dante is a big fan of the film. Praising it on Twitter.

    David says something in his mixed review about the Manson girls also seeking family and belonging, without the privilege Tate had. It makes me think a little more about my reaction to the ending which is stated in another blog. I’m not going to restate it or relitigate but that idea had more impact on me than anything that was said in the other blog. Still feel the same about the ending but it adds more to think about and that is something I’m open to. Not open to being lectured, condescension and false implications.

    Love be on ya!

  21. palmtree says:

    Bill, I think I know where you’re going with that thought. I actually think had QT followed that line of thinking, my opinion of the film would be very different. But then again, it would probably be a very different film overall too.

  22. palmtree says:

    Also, sorry if I came across as condescending. My only point was that Cliff basically has the powers of a superhero, so the film can hardly be called a respite from superhero movies. But you know, maybe that is Joe Dante…in which case my apologies to you.

  23. Manliano says:

    Why do people have such a hard time admitting that Tarantino has crafted his first bad film? It’s okay to say it. Every single great director has misfires, and this is very certainly one.

  24. Uncle Spike says:

    Manliano, If you think that this movie was a misfire and a “bad film” well..that is your observation and opinion and we have to respect that. But to assume that film reviewers are only kidding themselves that this is a very good film is rather condescending. I could have watched and enjoyed a 4 hour version of this film. I plan to see it again this weekend.

  25. amblinman says:

    Dunno where else to go:

    The Irishman trailer is weird af. I want to love this cast and this director having one final go but…I dunno what I’m seeing there. I guess the success will depend entirely on how good the CGI worked out.

    (Yeah, I’m aware script, performances, yada are important but considering the pedigree involved I’m assuming that stuff is at least “good”.)

  26. Hcat says:

    I don’t know, the Irishman trailer was better than I was expecting. Certainly seems bigger than I expected, I can easily see this going three hours given how big the story looks.

    Saw the 1917 trailer and I thought it looked very promising, but I am really really starting to get annoyed by the whomp sentence whomp whomp musical structure of trailers. Both Irishman and 1917 had it.

  27. movieman says:

    Found it interesting that the “Irishman” trailer didn’t highlight the $200-million CGI that de-ages DeNiro and Pacino.
    Which is precisely why I’m nervous about the movie.
    At worst, I’m expecting something akin to one of Zemeckis’ post-“Cast Away” performance-capture stunt movies.
    Fingers crossed.

    Thought it was amusing that the “1917” trailer only references “Skyfall.”
    Yeah, “Skyfall” is great, but Mendes did a lot more than helm the best Bond movie ever.
    “The Road to Perdition,” “Revolutionary Road” (my personal favorite), “American Beauty” (his Oscar sweep movie), etc.
    Of course, “Skyfall” is probably his best (only?) known film among Millennial and Gen Z moviegoers, so…whatever sells tickets.

  28. movieman says:

    Found it interesting that the “Irishman” trailer didn’t highlight the $200-million CGI that de-ages DeNiro and Pacino.
    Which is precisely why I’m nervous about the movie.
    At worst, I’m expecting something akin to one of Zemeckis’ post-“Cast Away” performance-capture stunt movies.
    Fingers crossed.

    Thought it was amusing that the “1917” trailer only references “Skyfall.”
    Yeah, “Skyfall” is great, but Mendes did a lot more than helm the best Bond movie ever.
    “The Road to Perdition,” “Revolutionary Road” (my personal favorite), “American Beauty” (his Oscar sweep movie), etc.
    Of course, “Skyfall” is probably his best (only?) known film among Millennial and Gen Z moviegoers, so…whatever sells tickets, I guess.

    P.S.= I’m deliberately staying out of the “Who’s more woke?” Tarantino debate, but I can’t deny being alternately amused (and horrified) by all the Gillibrand boosters among the Hot Blog faithful.

  29. Ray Pride says:

    Zaillian’s script… oh yes.

  30. Stella's Boy says:

    It’s not a competition to be woke. Jesus. Your constant old man gripes about SJWs here have gotten so tired movieman. These are valid and legit criticisms. Maybe some self-reflection is in order for you. Why do you so often sound like Hannity? If you want to stay out of it don’t say anything. Real dick move to be offended by those of us who believe the movie has a female problem. Go back to your Jordan Peterson book.

  31. palmtree says:

    Mm, seriously…? You literally didn’t stay out if it because you mentioned it. You failed at your own stated purpose. What now? Wanna talk about the movie perhaps?

  32. leahnz says:

    perhaps the most bizarre part of the aftermath of this slog of a movie is the revelation of incredible ignorance and even complete lack of acknowledgement of reality/downright misinformation re late-sixties/early seventies LA.
    despite Q-tip’s egregious whitewashing of ’69 city of angels, it was not a bastion of caucasity (where i lived in venice was a veritable melting pot of black, white, ‘chicano’, latinx/hispanic, our townhouse downstairs neighbours were japanese-american and turkish). the civil rights movement/anti-vietnam war movement/peace-hippie movement often flowed together ideologically in an era of activism and civil disobedience.
    as the ‘helter skelter’ generation knows well – and everyone else should, too: cult leader charles manson was a white supremacist, and one of his foremost goals was to start a ‘race war’. his violent, brainwashed lackies were not ‘hippies’, they were indoctrinated soldiers in said white supremacy. the MOTIVE of the tate/labianca murders – with PIG written in blood – was to make it look like black activists had committed the murders in the hopes it would start a race riot. this is a fact.
    that this is all omitted from q-tips retrograde, reactionary white-man wish fulfillment rage fantasy about a couple of bigoted/violent assholes/losers – an astounding choice at this particular moment in history – says a great deal, and none of it’s good. i guess in q-tip’s reactionary, revisionist fantasy all the black and brown people arrive in LA in 1970

  33. movieman says:

    I refuse to shed any tears over the brutal dispatch of the Manson gang (2 of whom are women) at the hands of Pitt and DiCaprio.
    Next I’ll be chastised for enjoying the ending of “Basterds” where Hitler was killed because, y’know, every life is sacred.

    The Hannity crack was really funny, SB.
    Especially since I’m someone who pretty much has MSNBC on from 6 A.M. until 11:30 P.M. every day, and subscribes to “enemy of the people” NYT.
    It’s that kind of hyper-sensitivity over any/every perceived slight that gives liberals a bad name, and precisely the kind of thing that could get Trump “re”-elected.
    It’s a movie.
    And a Tarantinto movie at that.
    After 27 years, any prospective moviegoers should know what to expect.
    And it’s not always going to be politically correct.
    (Who’s Jordan Peterson?)

  34. leahnz says:

    your ‘politically correct’ BS is so last week, movieman, for the love of baby jesus get a new talking point

  35. Stella's Boy says:

    I don’t care what you watch. It’s how you sound. You sound exactly like Hannity and Tucker Carlson. This isn’t about expecting you to shed tears. This is about your bullshit right-wing nonsense that it’s PC to somehow care about female representation in film. Knowing what to expect from QT hardly means he should get a pass. It’s pathetic that you immediately play the PC card like Trump and his ilk. If you’re as liberal as you claim I’d say you might want to reconsider who is tarnishing the name.

  36. Stella's Boy says:

    It would be a huge help to me if you could make a list of everything that will result in you playing the PC card. So objecting to sexism and misogyny means one is a PC SJW. What about racism? Homophobia? Xenophobia? What about sadistic violence or gun porn? Do I get labeled a PC SJW for objecting to any of those or stating even minor problems with them? Or are some OK with you? Just not sure what passes for legitimate criticism with you people these days who just reflectively label everything PC and wish it was still 1969.

  37. Pete B. says:

    “Who’s Jordan Peterson?”
    An academic who still thinks that men are men and women are women.

    I agree Stella that Hannity is annoying, but leave my man Tucker alone.

  38. Stella's Boy says:

    That’s certainly a description of someone. The incel hero is more accurate. Hey he sounds like him. And my Fox News loving father-in-law. If I had a nickel for every time he whined about something being PC and how he’s proudly not PC I’d be on vacation with Jeff Bezos right now and we’d be at my vacation home not his. Obviously our politics don’t align Pete but I find the idea that having problems with the portrayal of women in this film means one is a PC loser helping destroy the nation a whole lot of bullshit and just ridiculous.

  39. Pete B. says:

    Haven’t seen it yet, and don’t know when I’ll get to, but the debate here sure is spirited.

    Anyone have an opinion on Shannon Lee, daughter of Bruce, calling out QT and saying he made a mockery of her father?

  40. YancySkancy says:

    “There really is no explanation in the film why the group, led by a weak, fearful boy in Fictionalized Tex Watson, veers off to Rick’s house instead of the house they were sent to by Manson. It could just be a mistake. He could be wanting revenge for the humiliation of being sent away by “Jake Cahill.” The plan could be to kill Cahill and then head up the hill to kill the residents of the Tate/Polanski residence. There is no yellow Cadillac to suggest that Tex or the women/girls recognize that Cliff, who “escaped” Tex’s threat of gun violence at The Spawn Ranch might be there. The audience just isn’t told why.”

    I’ve only seen the film once, but I thought it was pretty clear that they intended to walk up to the Tate/Polanski place from Rick’s, rather than pull up the Tate driveway and risk being heard as they approached. Then when Rick confronts them, they have to retreat to the street. But the reason they then go to Rick’s instead of Tate’s is because, as Steve Chipman suggests in the first reply, Susan Atkins belatedly recognizes “Jake Cahill” and expounds her theory about killing the people who have “taught us to kill.” So they decide to target Rick instead (or at least first).

  41. palmtree says:

    “Q-tip’s egregious whitewashing of ’69 city of angels, it was not a bastion of caucasity”


    Movieman, if we know what to expect with Tarantino, we know there should be a major black character. Probably played by Samuel L. Jackson. Noticeably, there were none. Zip. Odd, wasn’t it? In fact,the only black person I saw was a waiter who walked by in the background.

    Meanwhile the only non-white character, the iconic Bruce Lee, gets pooped on as a silly, easily thrown braggart. He’s played for laughs, which if every other celebrity was being lampooned would have fit right in. But this is in spite of literally every other film icon being presented glowingly and reverently.

    Yes, we know Tarantino loves Chinese martial arts. We know from Kill Bill to expect he’ll give Bruce Lee a kickass scene worthy of the legend. Instead, we get this. Why?

    These are deliberate choices, aren’t they? I want to know what this adds up to in your opinion. Genuine question.

  42. amblinman says:

    “Who’s Jordan Peterson?”
    An academic who still thinks that men are men and women are women.”

    Close. He’s a pretty dumb guy who gives hope to other dumb guys that some day they’ll be taken seriously by an even dumber, but larger, audience of guys.

  43. palmtree says:

    Pete, I’ve commented on the Bruce Lee thing here in my post above and also in the previous thread.

  44. Stella's Boy says:

    Here’s the thing too. Don’t be passive aggressive. If you want to talk about something, engage and talk directly to people. If you don’t want to talk about it, then don’t. But being passive aggressive and saying you don’t want to talk about something while at the same time calling people out, that’s a dick move.

    Find it pretty hard to disagree with the Bruce Lee criticisms. Then again I’m super PC so what do I know.

  45. movieirv says:

    Good review. but Jay Underwood?

  46. leahnz says:

    what is it about this walmart-nazi-trash era that’s emboldened so many people to reveal their true jackass colours. like a festering boil has popped. like that scene in the sisters brothers with the spider vomit – out comes the brain garbage for all to see and man, it’s fucked up

    (a trash-talking bruce lee caricature who’s bested by some geezer who did pretend-fighting for a living is the single dumbest thing about this flick, and that’s saying a lot. this movie probably works best if viewed as kurt russell’s fever dream after experiencing a right-wing rage stroke)

  47. YancySkancy says:

    I sympathize with Shannon Lee, because it can’t be fun to see your dad depicted as kind of a cocky jerk, especially if you’ve grown up seeing him practically deified in popular culture. On the other hand, Bruce Lee came up as a streetfighter and got into trouble with the law in his youth, and there are accounts of him being, let’s say, highly self-confident about his abilities. He may have mellowed later, but he’s only about 28 in the OUATIH fight, and Pitt’s character is goading and teasing him. Whether a 50-something stuntman could truly hold is own with Lee strikes me a moot. This particular fictional one can and does. He’s got a few inches in height and more than 30 lbs on Lee, plus obviously some training of his own, so why not?

    Plus, a lot of people seem to forget or not notice that Lee doesn’t lose the fight. Pitt interrupts Lee’s boasting by poking fun at him. This angers Lee, and he calls Pitt out. Pitt gets in the first knockdown, which shocks Lee — he didn’t expect Pitt to be a worthy opponent at all. So he gets serious and soon knocks Pitt down. Then Zoe Bell comes in, freaking out, and stops the fight. We’ll never really know who would’ve won.

  48. Stella's Boy says:

    Sounds about white.

  49. palmtree says:

    Yancy, I appreciate the honest attempt to justify what’s in the film. But…

    “He’s got a few inches in height and more than 30 lbs on Lee, plus obviously some training of his own, so why not?”

    That’s like saying someone could take on Michael Jordan in his prime in a one on one because they were bigger, taller, and played high school ball. You’re comparing a GOAT to a person with average experience. That Bruce and Cliff are depicted as being roughly equal is exactly what’s insulting about it.

  50. YancySkancy says:

    Stella: Clever. Insulting, unfair and cheap, but clever.

    palmtree: If Cliff weren’t a fictional creation, I might agree. And if Lee were shown losing to him, I might agree. Above all, it’s a movie, so it’s not really about a person of (presumed) average experience holding his own against a GOAT. It’s about an unknown quantity holding his own against a known quantity. But many are taking this as two known quantities, because they know that Brad Pitt the actor wouldn’t stand a chance against Bruce Lee the martial arts legend. All we know about Cliff Booth is what we’re shown, and one of the things we’re shown is that he has enough skill to last a couple of minutes with Bruce Lee. Maybe the script doesn’t lay enough groundwork to make it plausible, but seeing him do it means it was possible, in the reality of the story.

  51. Stella's Boy says:

    Yeah I disagree. And it’s not just that the script doesn’t make it remotely plausible. It’s also the way it’s designed for us to laugh at Lee and see him as a jackass. Crowd I saw it with roared and they were laughing at him. It’s problematic for a number of reasons. People twisting themselves in knots to excuse it is just pathetic.

  52. YancySkancy says:

    Also re “Sounds about white”:

    The person who first pointed out to me that Cliff doesn’t actually defeat Lee but only gets in a couple of good licks is Asian-American, so I’ll be sure to let him know how “white” his observation was.

    Yes, that’s right — some of my best friends are Asian!

  53. palmtree says:

    I can understand Asian Americans wanting this Bruce Lee to be a good representation. I think Mike Moh does a decent job at playing him. And any representation, especially in a big movie, is seen as a win. I’m glad Lee doesn’t lose, but still…

    NOT LOSING is the best Bruce Lee can do??? That’s a respectful choice from QT? Your friend’s opinion and skin color doesn’t invalidate anything.

    Lee not winning IS the insult. Lee should have wiped the floor with Cliff, and the only reason he can’t is because…the movie wants Cliff to be a superhero. That QT makes this point at the expense of the only non-white character makes the movie toxic.

  54. palmtree says:

    “Maybe the script doesn’t lay enough groundwork to make it plausible, but seeing him do it means it was possible, in the reality of the story.”

    Please stop treating the story like it’s real, as if Cliff being a superhero has to be a fact.

    Like anything else in this film, it is an artistic choice. Why one thing happens versus another is “the reality of the story” only because QT put it there. So why he put it there is being questioned, not whether Cliff is factually able to stand up to Bruce Lee.

  55. Stella's Boy says:

    Well-said palmtree. It’s a bad choice. Like milk. And listening to a full house laugh at Lee was depressing.

  56. YancySkancy says:

    I don’t disagree that the representation of Lee is “problematic,” if only because he has a family and they feel insulted by it. But I don’t think the audience laughs because they think Lee is an asshole; they laugh because thwarted expectation equals comedy. No one expects a middle-aged nobody to get in a couple of good licks on Bruce Lee. But of course I get how that could be depressing, especially if you knew Bruce Lee or feel his image is not to be satirized. And I agree that the scene is setting Cliff up to be a kind of “superhero” who’ll later be able to take out three armed hippies while under the influence of an acid-dipped cigarette.

    I do find it a bit amusing that I’m getting called out for “treating the story like it’s real, as if Cliff being a superhero has to be a fact,” when you guys are literally upset that it’s unrealistic for the superhero known as Bruce Lee to briefly underestimate an opponent before the fight is stopped.

    At any rate, I don’t see myself as trying to justify Tarantino’s artistic choices so much as describe and interpret them. How those choices make the audience feel is important, but for better or worse I’ve only been discussing them in terms of the plausibility issue. I simply don’t find it implausible that Bruce Lee might have been cocky and over-confident in the situation, nor that Cliff might have held his own for a minute before the fight was stopped. Anyone is free to find the scene problematic, insulting, “toxic,” etc., but to do so over a case of the plausibles strikes me as silly. We accept far more implausibility in the average Hollywood movie without blinking. We blink in this case because Bruce Lee was a real guy, and we’ve seen his movies and grown up with his legend, so it makes us think we know something we can’t know — how he’d fare in the fictional situation created for this film. Anyway, I think that covers it from my end. Good talk.

  57. palmtree says:

    Yancy, yes, it’s plausible. But so what? Doesn’t satisfy the problem.

    The problem is Bruce Lee is the only non-white character.

    Imagine a film that featured an all-white Hollywood cast playing all-white Hollywood icons, whether fictional or not. What does it say when the single non-white Hollywood icon is portrayed in a buffoonish light?

    And what does it say that there are literally no other non-white characters (save for valets and waiters) who live in this idyllic Hollywood of the past? What message does that send?

    THAT message is what I’m talking about, not whether Bruce Lee could have acted this way. It’s the way Bruce Lee is framed in the context of this film that concerns me.

    And thank you for a respectful discussion. Much appreciated.

  58. YancySkancy says:

    “Yancy, yes, it’s plausible. But so what? Doesn’t satisfy the problem.”

    Yes, this is why it bugged me that so much of the debate about the scene centers on the supposed lack of plausibility.

    Thanks to you too!

  59. Stella's Boy says:

    Interesting that a new report says Tarantino wrote a longer fight between Lee and Cliff that had Cliff clearly beat Lee but Pitt objected. Tells us something about QT’s intent there.

  60. palmtree says:

    SB, good detective work. Intent matters.

    btw, there’s a 4-hour version of OUATIH coming to Netflix. Maybe Bruce Lee gets some more screen time and isn’t just there for a joke.

  61. YancySkancy says:

    “Interesting that a new report says Tarantino wrote a longer fight between Lee and Cliff that had Cliff clearly beat Lee but Pitt objected. Tells us something about QT’s intent there.”

    It does indeed. This is an interesting development.
    The report says Cliff would’ve won the fight by making “a cheap-shot move.” Ironically, if it had been shot that way, it would’ve quelled some of the “plausibility” nonsense (even though of course plenty of folks would still be angry that Lee didn’t win). It also would’ve made Cliff look much less like a “superhero,” which also might’ve cooled a few jets.

  62. palmtree says:

    They could’ve done the same fight to make Cliff look amazing but do it with Chuck Norris. Then you wouldn’t have the only non-white dude being ridiculed. Doesn’t solve the movie’s problems by a country mile, but at least we’d be talking about something else.

  63. Crabtree says:

    I saw the under 3 hour theatrical release of this film 2 days ago. The first thing my spouse and I said when we got out of the theater was I can’t believe QT took on the SJWs. More than once in the film, QT seems to draw a parallel between the Manson family and millenials. As the expected Tate slaughter approached, I wondered what sort of woke statement he was going to make. Then, the plot took a hard left turn. The Manson/SJWs decide to change the their target. They are humorously massacred by the hero of the film who I feel QT puts forth as the ideal expression of masculinity (a practical masculinity in contrast to Rick’s archetypal masculinity). To add further insult, Rick torches the last Manson with a flame thrower, the weapon he uses to kill Nazis earlier in the film (SJW = Nazi?). Once this threat to society is destroyed, the archetypal representations of the masculine and the feminine are united when Rick and Sharon finally meet. This might be my favorite Taratino movie of all time. It’s the first one I’ve immediately wanted to watch again. Can anyone who has seen the longer cut of the movie tell me if it supports the above interpretation?

  64. Stella's Boy says:

    It’s a little disturbing that you love watching people you perceive to be SJWs getting “humorously massacred.”

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon