“It was sort of Sally’s job to kind of, little by little, convince me to bring it down… It would still have what I’m talking about, but maybe it wouldn’t be so painful.”
-Quentin Tarantino, The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing
For the second straight time, Quentin Tarantino has made a mean, ugly movie that revels in the grotesque mutilation of a woman at the hands of a man. His defenders will claim, as the writer/director does, that his violence and cynicism is an equal-opportunity employer. Such a reading fails to place that brutality in the context of the real world, where the ratio of monstrous evils perpetrated by the sexes are decidedly not equivalent. Watching a character positioned as a likable fella—who is strongly suggested to have murdered his wife with a harpoon because she annoyed him—mercilessly bludgeon two women’s faces is a cinematic choice that has real-world implications.
For the second straight time, Quentin Tarantino has crafted a movie that is bloated and sluggish, ballooned to nearly twice an acceptable length for the amount of watchable content actually provided. Absent the pulsing energy that inhabited even the quietest scenes in his previous works, Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood is often just plain-old dull.
For the first time, Quentin Tarantino has directed a movie without the N word. Instead, he opts for a few jokes at the expense of Mexicans and turns the only significant, named character who isn’t white into an obnoxious braggart who deserves a good ass kicking. That obnoxious braggart would be Bruce Lee.
For the last time, Quentin Tarantino’s association with a project gave hope that the final product would outweigh the film’s concept. A nearly washed-up actor, Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), and his stuntman buddy, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), run into and around events surrounding the Mason family murders. This conceit is an excuse to let Tarantino explore spaghetti westerns, 1960s television programs and revisionist history in which the director is positioned as a hero for rewriting the past. The men are surrounded by “feet with other body parts attached,” or as most people call them “women,” who are all either virgin/mothers who must be protected at all costs or duplicitous, sometimes murderous, whores. At one point, Cliff “nobly” decides not to have sex with an underage girl, not because he doesn’t really, really want to, but because he refuses go to jail for “poontang.”
For the ninth time, Quentin Tarantino builds a playlist that is either electrically eclectic or “trying far too hard.” These tracks fill the air in laborious, conversation-free segments of people driving. What’s missing, as in The Hateful Eight, are any quotable lines of dialogue that immediately transfer from screen to memory to tongue. Those who claim OUATIH is “vintage Tarantino” have a starkly different recollection of the best parts of his earlier filmography.
For the third time, Quentin Tarantino made a movie without editor Sally Menkes, who died tragically in 2010. He has not made a truly great film without her. He has made two exceptionally awful films in her absence. In interviews, he has suggested that the nature of their collaboration was one in which Menkes kept him from his worst indulgences. Without knowing exactly how their relationship functioned, all that can be said is that his output without her has been cynical and cruel without any meaningful purpose.
The next time Quentin Tarantino makes a movie, I will not be looking forward to it.
Grade = F-