Earlier this week, The Hollywood Reporter speculated about which films could be screened in Cannes. We are now just two months away from the festival and, since Cannes has always welcomed Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a strong possibility. The film opens wide at the end of July. It’s almost time. And we should probably be seeing a trailer soon.
Like most Tarantino projects, this one is not without controversy. The original release date was August 9, which would mark the 50th anniversary of the Manson Murders and, given that the film has something to do with Sharon Tate, and her family members have objected to it, it seemed in poor taste to exploit such a gruesome tragedy for the release of a movie. Not sure if that’s why they changed it but Tarantino has tried to explain that his story, while Manson-adjacent, has more to do with Hollywood and what Hollywood was as opposed to what happened that night. As he put it:
“[It’s] a story that takes place in Los Angeles in 1969, at the height of hippy Hollywood. The two lead characters are Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), former star of a Western TV series, and his longtime stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Both are struggling to make it in a Hollywood they don’t recognize anymore. But Rick has a very famous next-door neighbor … Sharon Tate.”
“I’ve been working on this script for five years, as well as living in Los Angeles County most of my life, including in 1969, when I was 7 years old. I’m very excited to tell this story of an LA and a Hollywood that doesn’t exist anymore.”
Is it a nostalgia piece? Is it a meditation on fame? Is it an interrogation of fame, the movie business, and the celebrity ecosystem? Here’s the thing about Tarantino pictures: whether he intends to or not, his films end up glamourising violence and, sometimes, misogyny. There certainly is a feminist read of the Tarantino oeuvre out there but for every defence, there’s a counter-critique. You could say, therefore, that Tarantino is doing the artist’s work – igniting debate and confrontation, challenging our positions.
I suppose, then, that this is what we hope to be able to take away from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, that when it comes out, he and his cast will participate in whatever conversations the work is supposed to inspire. Which is where we find his two stars, Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio. Not exactly talkers. And, frankly, if we’re dealing with a story about an “LA and a Hollywood that doesn’t exist anymore”, well, aren’t those two all about the LA and the Hollywood that DOES exist, perhaps problematically? Like if status quo or disruption is actually what we’re mining here, um, what side do Brad and Leo really fall on?
Here’s Leo, out shopping with his girlfriend, model Camila Morrone, in LA yesterday. He’s 44. She’s 21. Is that new Hollywood or old Hollywood? Or forever Hollywood?