And They All Lived Happily Ever After (Spoilers for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood)
Don't let the foot fetish, ineffable cool or super stylized violence fool you.
Quentin Tarantino is a fucking romantic.
I mean, his first screenplay was True Romance. It doesn't get more on the nose than that.
And like all romantics - the man loves a fairy tale. Stories that teeter on the edge of myth and reality.
Stories with a hero who is strong and true
Stories with ogres
Stories with clever foxes
Stories where after a brutal battle, the good prevail
Once Upon A Time in Hollywood is a love letter to Tinseltown in the 60s and a wistful wish that maybe, just maybe - we could rewrite history. Make this world a little better so that the bad thing that haunts our nightmares maybe didn't happen.
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is a fairy tale with an ending befitting a fairy tale - And they all lived happily ever after.
When I was in college, I went to a rock n’ roll photography exhibit. Like a mini Morrison Hotel Gallery kind of thing with cheap white wine in paper cups and black and white prints blooming on the walls.
I saw a picture of Sharon Tate. Sitting in the backseat of a car, holding little baby booties, her face alight with the joy that every expectant mother must feel when imagining her child’s teeny little fingers and toes.
It’s easy to find online. I’m not posting it here. I just…can’t.
It messed me up - knowing what everyone knows now about what happened on Cielo Drive on August 8, 1969.
(You Must Remember This has a great podcast series if you’d like to know more)
It messes me up worse now - wanting children myself and desperately trying not to imagine the terror she must have felt as she took her final breaths and tried in vain to protect her unborn son.
Reality doesn't offer up a lot of happily ever afters. Open up any newspaper. Lately, it’s not offering up a lot of happilys either.
When you’re a kid, happy endings are the norm. People want to protect children for as long as possible, so the good guys always win, the princess is always in the castle and everyone’s home in time for dinner.
Then, you become an adult and you realize the ending has changed.
There is no happily ever after but there is “She died of an overdose” or “They were deported back to Honduras” or “They couldn’t make the payments so the bank took the house” or “I don’t know. I never heard from him again.”
Adults need happy endings too.
We need a moment to foster the flickering glimmer of an idea - no matter how brief it may be - that maybe, it could have been better.
Even if it’s a lie.
If for no other reason than to remember what hope feels like.
And that’s what Tarantino has done.
For about three hours in the frosty, popcorn-scented darkness - you and I can dream together of a sun-soaked place where Mamas and Papas make music and 55-year-old men look like Brad Pitt and the real hero, as we've always known in our heart of hearts, isn't the cowboy or his golden hour stunt double but the most beautiful girl in the picture (no offense to Margot Robbie)