This will contain spoilers. Partly because I think they’re necessary to discuss this movie, and partly because this is my Medium page and I can do whatever the fuck I want.
Rick Dalton is a hero. He's also an alcoholic, a has-been, a man-baby, a pretty good friend and a bit of a prick. But even as his celebrity days fade away, he's still a star, a testament to the greatness of a time from the past. For Tarantino, that's enough to make him something great.
Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood has often been described as a love letter to the now long gone 60s cinema. The good old days, some would say - back when watching a movie on a phone was as unrealistic as seeing a black person win an Oscar.
Yet, if this is a love letter, it is not one inspired by any form of happiness. Time is already slipping away from our protagonists' hands. If they don't feel entirely like real people, that's because they aren't. They may look cool, they may remind you of someone you once saw on a grainy screen, but in the end, they're nothing more than ghosts out of someone's imagination.
Many have said this is the least Tarantino film Tarantino has ever made, but don't be mistaken: this is still very much his work. Maybe there's not much blood and a surprising lack of racial slurs, but there's no mistake here. It's not only in the feet shots and in the heroes he made up. It's also in the ones that lived.
Sharon Tate is unlike any previous Tarantino character. She looks like an angel and behaves like one too. There's never a bad word coming out of her mouth, hardly any expression on her face outside from a wide, accepting smile. Anyone that knows about her outside of the film's context will feel anxiety rising as the night of her encounter with the Manson family approaches.
But we don’t get to see that. What we do get to see is violence towards the violent, big arms and bigger flamethrowers. In the end, the film becomes the perfect Tarantino fantasy world. One where you get to kill the rotten girl, save the perfect one and still stare at their ass in the process. There’s a bad type of wife killer and a funny type of wife killer. It may poke fun at some of its heroes’ flaws, but in the end it will still only acknowledge the parts of history it wants to remember.
Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood is, despite its flaws or maybe precisely because of them, a good time. It probably shouldn’t be. It plays everything safe for a very specific audience that might just be Hollywood itself. The empathy felt while watching the film will entirely depend on how close to that audience the viewer is. Some may find enjoyment, others only boredom — the most important thing to remember is that despite the famous names on the poster and the millions of dollars on the set, it is still just a figment of a nostalgic, warped imagination of a past that never was.