Books & Culture

Quentin Tarantino’s
Film of the Year

In “Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood,” the old wins its battle with the new and real men are portrayed as heroes once more. 

The best film of 2019 is a fairy tale about 1969.

The film ends with words of beginning. The film elides the end of five lives by giving viewers the ending they deserve. The film ends with the start of the title card: “Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood.”

The film is Quentin Tarantino’s tribute to a time and place in which Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) is both eternal and ethereal, in which the sweep of her hair follows the lines and curves of her sports car, in which the black roofline fades to black as her hair shines like gold. 

She speeds through the hills and canyons in a Porsche 911 Sportomatic, a streak of sun above a silhouette of style. She is the daughter of Theros and the target of Thanatos. She is the beauty of summer in a season of murder.

Her murderers come bearing knives and guns, while her saviors relax next door. 

Outside the gate of her driveway, across the road, lives Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio).

Together with his stuntman, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), Dalton fights the devil with a burst of hellfire. 

He aims his flamethrower at Susan Atkins (Mikey Madison), who runs through a sliding glass door and lands in his swimming pool. He flambés this flailing cultist. He kills this screaming shooter.

Thus do two TV cowboys deliver justice to three villains from a movie ranch overrun by outlaws and thieves.

Thus does Old Hollywood win its battle with New Hollywood. 

Thus stands the winner, Cliff Booth.

He wears the Champion® logo, not a pair of cutoffs or a blouse with ruffled sleeves and a satin collar. He smiles before he throws Bruce Lee into a car. He says two words before he knocks Steve “Clem” Grogan to the ground.

His co-champion is his boss and compatriot, Rick Dalton.

More emotional than enigmatic, Rick shares his feelings without losing Cliff’s respect. 

He worries about his career. He drinks to excess, forgetting his lines and embarrassing himself on set. But he does his job—he does it to the hilt—earning the admiration of his director and the awe of his costar.

He finds his mark on a hot August night, with the leaves hanging down and the grass on the ground smelling sweet.

Evil moves up the road, from the outside of town with a sinister beat.

Rick and Cliff defeat the evildoers.

They are heroes. They are men.