Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Ending Explained & Film Analysis

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019): Why Tarantino “Saved” Polanski’s Wife Sharon Tate? Once Upon A Time In Hollywood : Plot Analysis, The Meaning & Essence Of The Film, The Real Story, The Explanation Of The Ending, Similar Films

Country: USA, UK, China

Genre: drama, comedy

Year of production: 2019

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie

Tagline: “Quentin Tarantino’s 9th film”

Awards: Oscars 2020 for Best Supporting Actor (Brad Pitt) and Best Art Direction (Barbara Ling and Nancy Hay), nominations for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor ”, “Best Screenplay”; Directors Guild of America Award, Screen Actors Guild Award.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is Quentin Tarantino’s ninth feature film. The picture, which performed well at the box office and received favorable reviews from critics, belongs to the category of “movies not for everyone”. As always with Tarantino, there is a hidden meaning, a non-standard idea and an interesting ending.

There is no single meaning of the film “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”, and the interpretation of the picture depends on the erudition of the viewer and on his worldview.

Plot – reality and fiction

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is Tarantino’s most personal film. There are various subtexts here, references to his childhood. Because of this, some viewers have difficulties in perceiving the picture: first of all, it is designed for the American public, who is well acquainted with the history of its cinema. The tape is based on real events, but only in part. Brief description of the content of the tape. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is set in the late 1960s. Famous actor Rick Dalton is trying to overcome a creative crisis. In this he is helped by his best friend and part-time understudy, Cliff Booth.

Rick DaltonLeonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton and Brad Pitt as Cliff Booth. Frame from the film.

Fashionable director Roman Polanski settles next to Dalton, who makes films that are completely alien to the actor who remembered the “Golden Age” of Hollywood, and is at the zenith of fame. The public no longer needs Dalton’s old westerns, and he is out of work … Together with Rick, Booth also loses his job, who, in fact, has lived in his shadow all his life.

Friends do not want to accept the fact that their time has passed, and they take on any job. At the same time, Dalton is trying to somehow get into the circle of new “stars”. The irony is that for many of them he himself is a legend and a respected “star”, although he does not realize this.

In parallel, another storyline is developing, connected with the infamous Charlie Manson and his sect called “Family”. This is a real story. The sect committed bloody crimes in the mid-sixties. Its members obeyed in everything Manson, a repeat offender who spent 17 of his 32 years behind bars.

After being released, Manson gathered a few hippies around him and began to preach. His “religion” was a mixture of Christianity, Satanism and Scientology. Manson associated himself with Christ and the devil at the same time.

The sect, which included both young men and women, traveled around California, used drugs and staged mass orgies. At some point, Manson decided that it was time to bring the day of judgment closer and called on his supporters to begin the massacre. After that, the gang attacked people living in and around Hollywood. Celebrities were among those brutally murdered, including Roman Polanski’s wife, actress Sharon Tate. The beautiful actress was in her ninth month of pregnancy when the gang broke into her house … So it was in reality. But in the movie “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” a different interpretation of events is presented.

At some point, the stories of Rick Dalton, Polanski, Sharon Tate and Manson are closely intertwined. In this story, the director uses a trick he ran in Inglourious Basterds. That is, Tarantino took real events as a basis and allowed himself to beat them in the way his plan required.

Al PacinoAl Pacino played the role of Marvin Schwartz. Frame from the film.

Ending explanation

All storylines connect at the end of the picture. Thanks to this, its content becomes clear.

Closer to the finale, Cliff, who has received a serious stab wound, is sent to the hospital. Remaining unscathed, Dalton meets Tate, who is unaware of the danger her life was in just a few moments ago.

We can say that Tarantino filmed his sub-reality with a happy ending, where there is no place for the murder of a pregnant actress. The meaning of the ending of the film “Once Upon a Time in … Hollywood” is that the old and new Hollywood exist harmoniously together, and the male friendship only grows stronger.

There is a slightly different explanation for the ending – and at the same time why “Once Upon a Time in … Hollywood” has such an impressive timing. Tarantino’s painting is dedicated to a whole outgoing era. It is long because it is very difficult for the director to let go of time, and he wants to stretch it out as long as possible.

This film is characterized by a focus on small things, long shots and empty dialogue (a typical feature of Tarantino films). Thus, the director created a realistic and forceful immersion of the viewer in the era.

There are interesting scenes in which the viewer, as it were, rides in the back seat of the car with the hero, listens to the radio and looks at the dashboard. That is, Tarantino ensured that the viewer really “turned up” in this car and felt himself there. Advertising signs, records, colored suitcases, a tape recorder, zippo, TV shows, music and much more that so persistently existed in the frame, not only introduced the viewer to the era, but completely immersed in it.

But Quentin isn’t just nostalgic. At the same time, he understands that nothing lasts forever, and this is explained in an ironic scene after the credits. And in this scene, the viewer is watching a black-and-white scene in which Dalton is present, as the alter ego of his Sheriff from the Reward Law series.

In the same scene, he plays in a commercial for Red Apple cigarettes. The hero praises cigarettes, and the whole scene is reminiscent of the “good old” time when smoking was fashionable. Notably, the commercial fails, with Dalton complaining about his double chin with a sigh. Kind of a postirony from Quentin.

The meaning of the film

Like any good movie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood has several layers. The first is a true friendship between two representatives of the era of classical cinema. The meaning of their relationship lies in the fact that true friendship exists, and not everything in the world of cinema is a fake and a phantom.

The second layer is the need for recognition. This topic is painful for many creative people. Many of us try to measure our success by the achievements of others, but at the same time, due to a limited worldview, we cannot objectively evaluate ourselves. This thought runs through the entire Tarantino film.

The third layer is the collision of the old and the new. This theme also comes up in Dalton’s relationship with filmmakers and in his keen dislike of hippies.

The fourth layer is human destiny. Many analyzes say that a further explanation of the meaning of the film (including its solution) depends on how familiar the viewer is with the tragedy that happened on the night of August 8, 1969.

We are talking about Sharon Tate – the wife of director Roman Polanski. A beautiful young woman was nine months pregnant when the Manson scumbags broke into her house and killed both her and her guests.

Sharon TateMargot Robbie as Sharon Tate. Frame from the film.

Some kind of trick was expected from Tarantino, but there was none. And for this reason, “Once Upon a Time in … Hollywood” is called the most non-Tarantine work of the eminent master. There was no cool multi-move, and the end of the film turned out to be ambiguous, but inspiring.

Somewhere in an alternate reality, in the near future, Sharon is still alive – she enjoys motherhood, and in her face the director shows the young and fragile New Hollywood. The fury of Manson’s thugs is deliberately transferred to the representatives of Old Hollywood – Dalton and Booth. Moreover, the guys, acting harmoniously and brutally, do not leave the maniacs a single chance for salvation.

The film talks about the need to believe in yourself and your strengths. For the protagonist, the entrance to Polanski’s house is a cherished door to the closed backyards of Hollywood. It is noteworthy that he considers himself unworthy of this.

As it turned out, everything was fine with him – he just needed to be himself. It turned out that no one forgot about you: people grew up on your films. It is enough just to speak, and you understand that even the “superstars” of the highest rank around you are ordinary people. Many of them are friendly, easy to communicate with, do not try to “crush” you with their achievements, and maybe even dream of getting to know you. In life, everything is much simpler than we build in our heads …

And yet, the protagonist of the film “Once Upon a Time in … Hollywood” is the outgoing era of the sixties, the rapidly changing Hollywood and America in general.

“Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood” is a tough, bloody and ironic film. But he does not leave a “heavy” heart. Oddly enough, this is just a fairy tale with meaning, which the master gave to fans of unusual and smart cinema.

hippie era

Similar films

Here are some movies similar to Once Upon a Time in Hollywood:

  • “8 and a Half” (Italy, 1963. Director – Federico Fellini). The film tells about an endlessly tired director. Once he plunged into the abyss of his memories and eventually got lost between reality and the world of frightening phantoms.
  • “Soldiers of Doom” (USA, 2008. Director – Ben Stiller). Actors superblockbuster enter into an unequal battle with inveterate thugs. At the same time, they think that they are filming a movie.
  • “Long live Caesar!” (USA, 2016. Directed by Ethan and Joel Coen). To prevent a scandal, you need to find the suddenly missing “star” of the film. It’s a wonderful, biting irony about 1950s Hollywood.
  • “The Player” (USA, 1992. Director – Robert Altman). In the center of the plot are studio intrigues. The protagonist, Griffin Mill, trying to save his chair, commits a crime, which triggers a chain of strange and terrible events;
  • “Wag” (USA, 1997 Director – Barry Levinson). In the center of the plot are the intrigues of the White House: in order to hush up the scandal, the responsible persons invite a specialist from Hollywood. Trying to realize his ambitions and earn money, he puts on a grand show.

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