When I saw Reservoir Dogs
, I was blown away. The film seemed so simple — a traditional heist story, but the dialogue and the editing felt fresh and groundbreaking. Quentin Tarantino’s next three or four movies gave me the same impression. Everyone knows Tarantino is a fan of movies. He takes a long time to perfect his films and seems to have all creative control of them. Knowing this, I feel comfortable assuming that every shot, every bit of everything is intentional. After four years, Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood
was released. Would this be Tarantino’s great homage to westerns? Is it a docudrama of the Manson murders? Somehow, it is both and it is long. It runs almost three hours, which is par for Tarantino. But this was the first Tarantino movie that actually felt
long. And pretty complicated… for a few reasons.
While Brad Pitt’s character, Cliff Booth, is a likable quasi-hero, there is a running rumor within the film about his participation in his wife’s death. We are given a flashback to his wife on a boat complaining like a banshee and Cliff with a harpoon in his hand. However, the flashback does not give the audience the full story — it cuts before we see what really happened to her. We, the audience, and the characters in the film do not know if he actually murdered her. This rumor (just a rumor — no proof either way) is hurting Cliff’s career as a stuntman. Could this be a subtle criticism of the #MeToo movement and the rise of accusations made against men in Hollywood? Wendy Idle saw the same connection in her review of this film for The Guardian
. She writes, “Tarantino’s decision to engineer audience support and sympathy for a character whose career has stalled because of allegations of violence against a woman feels like a deliberate provocation and a petulant dig at the #MeToo movement.” Should the audience believe Cliff? To my recollection, he does not deny it, but we don’t know for sure, and we're supposed to see him as the good guy. Whether Tarantino intended to throw shade at #MeToo or not, the addition of this murder mystery was directly comparable to the movement.
Beyond the rumor and possible #MeToo relationship, the women in the film are not as complex or developed as the men. Sharon Tate is the main female character. She is sweet, simple, and nice to look at. In a scene where some party-goers are explaining the relationships between Roman Polanski, Sharon Tate, and Jay Sebring, a woman says, “Sharon absolutely has a type: cute, short, talented guys who look like 12-year-old boys.” What about Polanski?! While this film is set in a time before the accusation that Polanski drugged and raped a teen girl, it was an uncomfortable choice for this film. Sharon
has a weird, inappropriate type? At least she is dealing with adult males and not actual 12-year-olds. If Tarantino included this purposefully as a joke or wink to the Polanski accusations, it was offensive to put that on the female lead.