'Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood' Has a Stupid Ending!!!
I really wanted Tarantino’s new movie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, to be my favorite work in his filmography. I hyped myself up and figured I would not be let down. I thought this was gonna be the movie Inherent Vice promised to be (even though nobody really promised anything to anybody).
Well, I was let down. That’s technically not Tarantino’s fault!
The world is a stupid place. Why the fuck would anything nice ever happen?
There are spoilers ahead. So if you’re a pussy incapable of separating factual information from virginal aesthetic experiences, then leave this site right now. Go cry to your momma, beyotch.
First, the good —
The movie is overwhelmingly good. If you can ignore my clickbait title for a bit, and check out the movie without any bias, you will end up experiencing one of the finer cinematic pieces of this year.
It has A LOT going for it: Excellent soundtrack, beautiful cinematography, cool performances, an excellent character portrayed by Brad Pitt, anthropological detail regarding the 1960’s, Manson vibes, etc…
However, it’s not the good that’s sticking in my mind for some reason.
Yes, there are flashes that remain with me: The shots of Brad Pitt driving down the neon-soaked 1960’s LA strip; the various bits of synchronized music with slow-motion action; cinephilia; etc etc…
But what’s sticking with me the most is the aspect Tarantino botched: the ending.
The ending was poorly designed.
He basically does the whole “historical revisionist” shtick where the Manson family ends up invading Leo DiCaprio’s house first — but in the process, get murdered violently by a super-high-on-acid Brad Pitt & his lovable attack dog.
They never make it to Sharon Tate’s house, as they die (lol) … And then, at the very end, we see the people chilling in Polanski’s house asking DiCaprio what happened, being blown away by the weirdness of the situation, happy that it got resolved & that everybody (except the Manson family members) are okay… Finally, ending with “Sharon Tate” inviting DiCaprio inside for a drink.
Sorry, but I think this ending is super fucking dumb.
One thing is killing Adolf Hitler. That shit makes sense.
Killing Adolf Hitler on screen does many things: It reverses an historical — practically universal — injustice that occurred in the 20th Century while also reaffirming our values as a nation. Inglourious Basterds basically reminds us that, as Americans, we collectively “kill Hitler.” It is both an image of high catharsis & of vital importance.
It’s no coincidence during the rise of the far-right movement in this country that Tarantino’s WW2 film gets referenced a lot as a marker to our values:
We kill Hitler, we punch Nazis.
That shit is as American as a Big Kahuna Burger.
The same goes for Django Unchained.
Slavery is one of the great injustices of this country. It is something that has never been properly settled nor rectified. Tarantino provides the same style of social catharsis, but this time focusing on an internal enemy (the enslavement of our peoples) versus an external enemy (European fascists).
He empowers one of the enslaved in a manner that only cinema can get away with, and provides the modern day audience with the spectacle of a formerly enslaved person donning the whip himself, brutally lashing at the white plantation owners responsible for this evil trade. That shit brings tears to my eyes every time I see it.
Again, Tarantino says: This massive, practically universal, injustice should not have been, and as a nation this is what we truly believe in: We whip slave owners, not slaves.
But the same gravitas doesn’t exist with the Charles Manson / Sharon Tate story.
It’s too niche. It’s too Hollywood.
Yes, their murders had a reverberating social effecting regarding the “end of the 1960’s” and America’s perception of hippies, etc.
But in no way is the Manson family equivalent to the slave trade or the Nazi movement!
First of all, his movies are all over the top violent. His violence communicates.
“If you ask me how I feel about violence in real life, well, I have a lot of feelings about it. It's one of the worst aspects of America. In movies, violence is cool. I like it."
''In real life,'' Tarantino reflected, ''when violence enters our world . . . it kind of just rears its ugly head and we are not prepared for it.''
Whether Tarantino wants to address it or not, he is reflecting the violence in American culture (almost perfectly) and at the same time is communicating certain things about violence: violence in America, violence in art, and violence generally.
Jackson Pollack has the paint splatter. Quentin Tarantino has the blood splatter.
Tarantino is basically saying: Look, there’s real violence in America. That shit is shocking too. But unlike the real violence in America, my violence is fake. It’s safe to experience because it’s capsuled as a cinematic experience. It is not real. It is an experience, and it is a statement (of sorts). It can be a super fun experience when it’s fake. And my shit’s fake.
Of course, it’s not fake! Tarantino’s violence is real violence!
The violence he depicts in movies are actual ideograms presented visually on a giant screen. This gets rendered by the viewer’s brain & becomes an actual thing in the world.
All of this is to say he missed the mark with the ending of ‘Once Upon a Time…’
Whatever reason he decided not to depict the Manson murders, he’s still swimming against the flow of his own aesthetic: violence as spectacle; violence as reward.
There is little reward in reversing the true events of the Manson murders, and showing Brad Pitt killing the Manson family cult members. The event is too small (in comparison to slavery or Nazis) & can’t actually be undone. Therefore, it feels sad.
That is certainly an effect but it’s not a great effect.
A better effect (the only obvious other choice in this binary) would have been to depict the Manson / Tate murders, as they actually occurred.
The audience would have been provided the spectacle of seeing the actual historic event as depicted by a cinematic master; the vicarious thrill of being in this dark vortex of energy that actually happened; and also a cautionary tale could have been spun in the fabric of the narrative / climax.
Quentin Tarantino needed to kill Sharon Tate on screen… but he didn’t.
He doesn’t really gain too much by swapping it to his revisionist fantasy.
First, he goes against his own aesthetic of excessive violence.
If the excessive violence is both high entertainment (in his eyes) but also a manner of subconsciously (yet “safely”) expressing the true violence within America, the highest form of entertainment / statement he could have made about America (cinematically) would have been — not the fucking revisionist version of the Manson murders he depicted — but showing us what actually occurred… depicted in his style.
If the issue was disrespect for the real people (Polanski / Tate / Sebring / etc) — that seems out of character for Tarantino, who has no problem throwing the “n” word around, or using the female body as a punching bag (in his movies).
I mean… his depiction of Bruce Lee is practically “yellow face” — the racist form of mockery directed toward Asians, as a byproduct of World War propaganda.
Secondly, the revisionist history doesn’t work here.
Hitler & American slavery makes sense. That shit was catastrophically evil on a mass scale. It lends itself to mass universal catharsis.
The murder of Sharon Tate (& her friends) by a buncha strange hippies — although horrific in its own right — does not have the same universal appeal.
Because at the end of the movie, as Sharon Tate invites DiCaprio up to her house for a drink, we all know that this did not actually occur. And, to me at least, it makes this “happy ending” a melancholic one.
I sat there the entire time thinking, “But this didn’t happen. I know what happened. I’m witnessing a happy ending & yet I’m still sad.”
Sad because we all know the truth of what happened that night; sad because this happy ending clearly did not happen; and sad because I didn’t get the cinematic catharsis that I crave — to witness the actual Manson murders as illustrated by a cinematic master.
You should def check it out because Quentin Tarantino doesn’t make a boring movie.
But the ending is misguided…