When a bad relationship breaks down, you never get closure with that person. Similarly, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood could never give me the closure that I needed. Here’s a fan’s reaction on witnessing Quentin Tarantino’s ‘love letter to LA’.
Quentin Tarantino is a name that echoes in the mind of every film enthusiast, whether it be the aspiring screenwriter/director studying the greats, the pretentious cinephile whose movie tastes are based on artsy Instagram posts, or even the people who haven’t watched a single movie by him!
With just 9 films, the director has garnered a cult following for himself, with fans expecting a unique blend of comedy, pop culture, and hyper-violence. His films aren’t supposed to evoke some deep emotion in you and they might even lack meaning (no matter what critics or film theorists interpret) but surely his dialogues and scenes leave a lasting impact on the viewer.
When I was in a ‘PG-13 film-watching age’, I got my first hit off this Tarantino drug. My father had just watched a bloody Western comedy-drama called Django Unchained. Now with the blood, slurs, racism (the movie is set in the times of American plantation slavery), my old man didn’t want me to enjoy this R-rated extravaganza but maybe somewhere, he did want me to get a taste of it.
In a parent-friendly manner, he told me to watch Django whenever it could air on TV. I did watch a censored version on Pix and boy, I was enthralled. From the smart satire to the aesthetics to the randomness (hip-hop songs playing in a film set in the 1800s, Ku Klux Klan members complaining about the fact that they can’t see through the holes in their masks), this was something I had never experienced before.
Apologies to my caring father, but I couldn’t resist, and I went online to watch an uncensored version and appreciated it even more. Dialogue from that film suits my newfound love for Tarantino, ‘You had my curiosity, now you have my attention’.
Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill Vol. 1, Kill Bill Vol. 2, even Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair, I devoured everything associated with this ‘filmmaking god’. And maybe that god status that people like me gave him, is the reason why his latest release failed to leave a mark on me.
You see when you make an artist a god, it’s natural for you to think that everything he touches will be gold. Even if Tarantino never said Aham Brahmasmi, film geeks have already made him a cinematic bhagwaan of sorts, along with others like Christopher Nolan and Anurag Kashyap.
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood was marketed with enough buzz and hype to match a Disney remake or a Marvel superhero flick. Tarantino teased a fun bromance between Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, an intriguing ‘Uma Thurman from Pulp Fiction’-like act by Margot Robbie, famous serial killer (more like serial killer instructor) Charles Manson is a plot point, and endless references to 60s Hollywood, the world in which it is set in.
Dropping on 15th August, I felt it’s my patriotic duty to watch some sacred swadesi stuff rather than Tarantino. Finally, I picked a mangalwaar (Tuesday) to pass near the screen showing Mission Mangal and watch Hollywood.
Now, I’m 20. This was the first time I could watch an Adult rated Tarantino movie on the big screen, in all its glory. What did I get?
I got some classic CBFC interferences like beer cans being censored and words like ‘bastard’ being muted while f-words are heard clearly! But other than that, it’s maybe Tarantino’s ambitions that were the biggest interference for me.
I won’t delve much into spoilers as you can find them anywhere on the internet. So, I’ll Now I enjoyed the film but maybe I expected more. The technical aspects like cinematography and production design were spot-on while the direction was also not bad (to say the least). But then the script was all over the place. And a Tarantino film with a weak script, I never thought something like that would exist.
Whatever was increasingly hyped managed to be downplayed in the movie, at least for me. And right towards the ending of the second half when the hype started taking over me, when my adrenaline started rising, the words ‘Written and Directed by Quentin Tarantino’ appeared and I realised this is the end.
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is like that dish which will satisfy (not fully satisfy) your taste buds but the aftertaste won’t be something worth remembering. Unlike his previous films, there’s also a dearth of quotable lines. It’s sad that the one chuckle-worthy line ‘We love Pussy’ seems like it’s straight out of a Seth Rogen comedy (Seth Rogen is a funny dude but he’s no god like QT).
I get it there are a lot of good cinematic references (if we exclude a problematic Bruce Lee impersonation) and an ending which will make sense to those who have read up on the Charles Manson murders (look it up online if you want nightmares), but still I wasn’t prepared for Tarantino to make a film that would be this ‘niche’.
The man behind Django used to entertain me as well as my parents in equal amounts. There was nothing polarising about his filmography.
In fact, there’s nothing polarising about this film too as many do feel it’s flawed but still feel it’s thoroughly entertaining. But I’m pretty sure there might be some viewers like me who fell for the hype and had Tarantino defy their expectations (in the negative sense). I found Brad and Leo hilarious but wished their bromance to have developed further. I found the production design to be aesthetic but again wished the movie got into “substance over style” mode sooner. In the end, I’m accepting that it’s a good film but I again wish this entry in the Tarantino Universe to be a better film.
So, this raises certain questions. In this age of Insta and YouTube, should we even watch trailers and get extremely hyped about any film? Is Tarantino, the director whose styles are bold and experimentative, experimenting further? Would people have loved Once Upon A Time In Hollywood if it wasn’t ‘Written and Directed by Quentin Tarantino’?
This article just like Tarantino’s endings are open to interpretation…
Featured Image Credits: Vox
Written and Directed by
Shaurya Singh Thapa