The longer I have to sit with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, the deeper I dive into the movie's themes. The one I keep coming back to is the idea of justice in Hollywood.
Perhaps it's a personal thing, but the more I talk with friends and the more headlines I read, the more I realize Hollywood is not a meritocracy where the good rise to the top and the bad are punished. It seems like we're constantly fed different debates on how to break in and how things can work out for good people—but most of it is just chaos, with few people left standing and working.
There is no justice in Hollywood. But it seems like Tarantino made a movie that wishes there was.
Check out this video from Kirby Ferguson, and let's talk after.
Tarantino Imagined a World with Justice in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
It's safe to say there might not be anyone in the world who loves movies as much as Quentin Tarantino.
The guy has seen everything, consuming everything from history to current titles. Tarantino has such a huge, deep love for Hollywood. He seems like someone who wishes there was a modicum of justice to it. Justice that would let Sharon Tate live, that would let a beloved TV actor become a star, that would forgive and redeem a great stuntman who never got his shot...
For me, I think Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is not fan fiction, but an homage to what this town would be like if hard work, being a good person, and Hollywood karma paid off.
Take the most controversial scene in the movie, the fight with Bruce Lee. If you're heard Tarantino talk about this, then you know he claims to have based this on real events, where Lee was accused of hitting co-stars and then got beat up by a stuntman who was sick of it.
For Tarantino, this felt like justice. If that was the only scene in the movie like this, then I would back down. But the truth is, it feels like the whole movie is built on this particular brand of justice.
It's threaded through Tate being let into her movie for free, because she's the star, and because she deserves it for being so good at it. It's inside Rick Dalton's work to find fame, love, and fortune in movies, with his desire to be in something good. In the end, we think there's a chance he'll work on big projects, and the rest will be history.
Vanity Fair has called this a revenge movie, but I don't think I agree. There's some sort of vengeance here, but I don't think it's as overt as it is in Django Unchained and Inglourious Basterds. While vengeance in those movies is pure, it can backfire on the individuals. In fact, we see that vengeance kills most of the people involved. In this movie, it spares them. This justice is a baptism of people who deserve to be remembered and celebrated. Who deserve a happy ending.
Tarantino uses brutal violence in this movie not to punish hippies, but to punish the people who stopped this world from happening. To punish the psychopaths that robbed us of a just and fair Hollywood. The one we all fantasize about participating in.
Let me know what you think in the comments.
Source: Kirby Ferguson