Let’s start with a couple of givens. Any time I channel surf by “Jackie Brown” I stop. It is Tarantino’s best film.
I enjoyed the suspenseful interrogations of “Basterds,” and little else, the minimalism and edge of Reservoir Dogs.” Hated “Hateful” and “Django.”
And I always enjoy those trademark pop culture riffing monologues and dialogues, “your father’s watch” and “Royale with cheese,” the Tim Roth/Amanda Plummer open in “Pulp.” “Sicilians” in “”True Romance.”
But there is a lot to irritate and make you roll your eyes at and grind your teeth about if you’re not swooning over the recreation of 1969 LA like too many critics to count. Nostalgia is overrated.
Things I hated?
1) Where IS that signature Tarantino dialogue/monologue? It’s not the dizzy Pitt/Dern duologue (talking at cross purposes). The TV director Sam Wanamaker-Rick Dalton pep talks were good, but nothing you will ever quote aside from “You’re better than that.” It’s not in the Pacino/Pitt/DiCaprio scene. Little of the dialogue in this picture can hold a tune, much less “sing.”
2) The voice-over narration. Kurt Russell reading it or not, it plays like a “We need to make sense of the narrative, need to excuse the lame third act leap forward in time.” It’s crap, lazy filmmaking to boot.
3) The Sharon Tate as “The Marion Davies of Her Day,” an underrated comedienne, thesis. Davies was the comic actress and Hearst mistress slandered by Orson Welles in “Citizen Kane.” As the scenes from “The Wrecking Crew” sampled here show, Tate was an awkward and obvious actress — not quite amateurish, not exactly skilled at even the basics. Tarantino had already inserted Rick Dalton into “The Great Escape.” He might have sold his Tate thesis had he parked Robbie in “The Wrecking Crew.” She can act. And like Tarantino, I liked Dean Martin Matt Helm movies…when I was 8. They’re garbage. Tate didn’t deserve her fate, but her savviest career move was marrying that creep Polanski. Which accidentally sealed her fate.
4) Pointless jump cuts. How very “French New Wave/Nouvelle Vague” of him.
5) Women’s feet, the dirtier the better.
6) Endless, overlong driving shots. In his mythic La La Land, LA had no smog and none of the traffic that created it. Just vintage cars weaving in and out of the sparse other vintage motors at their unhurried leisure. It sets the pace of the picture, which is funereal.
7) Slurping. Everybody slurps. And don’t get me started on the endless throat-clearing. Excusing your own gaucherie, QT?
8) Shortchanging The Spaghetti Western experience. A third act afterthought?
9) Over-accuracy in recreating the mass production junk that was the Golden Age of TV Westerns. Close your eyes and just listen to “Lancer” scenes as they are performed. I did when I dropped back in on an hour or so of the film, hearing it anew on second viewing. This is dreadful, tin-eared horse opera scribbling. Luke Perry, BTW? Rest in peace, but God, he looks uncomfortable and sounds out of place here, an actor in the “pilot” who’d be recast if the show is picked up?
10) Slandering the memory of Bruce Lee. He wasn’t the saint portrayed in Rob Cohen’s “Dragon,” but I’ve never run across any suggestion he was a late 60s Hollywood douche. Having old white guy stunt conservative Cliff Booth “teach him a lesson” is laughable, reactionary and maybe a little racist. Conservative fans of the picture eat that up, along with the harsh treatment of women and “hippies.”
Tarantino, breaking with the rest of Hollywood, which is kowtowing to the Chinese market and Chinese money? Is that why he did it?
That “ending” is worth its own “top ten” all by itself, but I’ll leave that where it is. I dare say a BIG chunk of the audience seeing “Once Upon a Time…” won’t know much about the Manson Family (putting Lena Dunham in there seems so…apt) and Tate-LaBianca murders, and won’t be curious enough to learn the truth. Hollywood has always bastardized history, but I am NOT a fan of “Inglourious Basterdized” history. At all. In an era of fake news, burlesque fake history like this not quite the assault on the facts as proven that say “J.F.K.” was. But it doesn’t help.
People calling this the director’s “masterpiece” have probably been saying this for movie after movie since “Jackie Brown.” “Jackie Brown” is the one picture that still plays.