Once Upon A Time In Hollywood: Quentin Tarantino’s Most Cathartic Work

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Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt in a still from Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood was really a unique experience to watch in theatres. I am not saying this in terms of how good the movie is, but in terms of weirdly different it is from anything that I have ever seen. I adored the movie and then I went back to watch it again, and this time, I had known what takes place by the end of the movie. There are two phases of watching a movie, one where you go in blind and the other where you go in just to relive that experience and have a deeper view of the movie on a whole. But in the case of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, I was equally surprised in both my viewings. What is it about the entirely over the top climax of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood which makes it so incredible by the end. Is it the unexpectedness of the event or the audacity of Quentin Tarantino to, in a sense, change the history altogether?

The Members of the Charles Manson Cult make their way towards the house of Sharon Tate (Played by Margot Robbie) but they stumble upon Rick Dalton’s house and their plans and their lives are soon cut short. The cult members had originally stormed the house of Sharon Tate, who was 8 and a half months pregnant, and brutally murdered her along with a few other members present in her house, including Jay Sebring. But in the fictional world of Quentin Tarantino, the murders never happened due to the heroic efforts of Cliff Booth (Played by Brad Pitt) and Rick Dalton (Played by Leonardo Dicaprio).

More than heroic, they were just two guys looking to save their lives, who ended up stabbing, smashing and burning the members of Manson Cult. Throughout the runtime, the entire development of Cliff and Rick as persons has no indication whatsoever, to what they eventually end up doing by the end. Maybe apart from the fact that Cliff is a trained Stunt Man and Rick has a Flamethrower in his backyard. With each passing minute, the longing for the murder depiction increases. We all went to the theatres for Leo and Brad but the Manson murders were what the movie was based on and it rightfully, or wrongfully, takes the entirety of runtime to achieve that.

In a still from Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

The Elements of Uncertainty

Quentin Tarantino induces uncertainty and the gradual progression towards an inevitable disaster through each and every scene in the starting acts of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. We see Margot Robbie going to the theatres, giving rides to hippies and being ever so jolly with everyone, and our previous knowledge of the murders only makes us more and more tensed about the direction where this is heading.

On the other hand Rick is facing problems in the movie scene, and his self esteem has plummeted so much, that it is Cliff who has to make him feel good about himself. And well, Cliff has no regrets whatsoever, his demeanor is that of an incredibly easy going man who could hardly care about anything of importance. He gets high, feeds his dog, slams Bruce Lee to a car and goes to bed.

Again, the reason I am specifying all of this is to bring to front, the lack of an indication in the screenplay. The Cult members in the Spahn Ranch have a motive after Cliff visits the place and with that, and only with that, begins the series of changes and altercations in the actual history of the events. 

Cliff’s visit to the Spahn Ranch also works incredibly well in addressing the rumors behind the owner of Spahn Ranch indulging in a sexual relationship with the Cult ladies. After he goes up and checks on the owner of the ranch, he starts asserting an all out dominance on all of the cult members who surround him. He sees his car tire absolutely busted and then proceeds to punch the pulp out of the random cult guy who did it.

Now, the reasons for the murder were obviously a lot different as Cliff is nothing but a fictional character. But this is the first moment where Tarantino actually uses Cliff to create an element of change in the movie and indicate some sort of redemption which ultimately takes place in the end. 

Quentin Tarantino and Margot Robbie from the sets of Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Quentin Tarantino’s Revenge

I like to think that Tarantino wanted revenge with this movie, or at least some sort of redemption of his own. For someone to brutally kill Sharon Tate just because his career as a musician didn’t fly, doesn’t sit right with anyone with a sane mind. Tarantino creates a setting where his favourite actress is left unhurt and two absolutely unaware people, in the midst of saving their own lives, reverse one of the most tragic incidents in the history of Hollywood. This is a world where Bruce Lee is reduced to a punching bag and Sharon Tate lives happily ever after while having befriended a star who is beyond his prime.

The brutality of the murder draws parallels with the brutality of how Cliff Booth and Rick Dalton end up killing the cult members. It was reported that Sharon Tate had multiple stab wounds, and in case of the cult members in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, each one of them dies in a fashion which is more gruesome and bloody than the one before. For the theatre to ridiculously laugh at a woman getting her head smashed multiple times, over and over again, has an uncanny catharsis to it. Tex’s head gets smashed on the floor and Rick Dalton with his ultimate boss move, roasts a cult member alive. 

The Movie Culture Synopsis

Writing this gave me as much satisfaction as Quentin Tarantino might have felt while he thought of the screenplay and the idea. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is certainly not a movie for every preference, its vastly experimental and vastly fictional, but that ending, no matter how different it is from the actual turn of events, still reinstates the power of fiction, and creates all round satisfaction.