When I went to see Quentin Tarantino’s latest blockbuster, Once up a time in Hollywood, I was completely oblivious to its original story. My confusion led me to believe that this was just another one of those movies which made absolutely no sense but was a hit due to the big names involved. I couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, the movie was based off a true Hollywood story, the Tate murders.
The film is introduced to us through the fictional characters of the actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo Dicaprio) and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Dalton struggles to find any work other than westerns, meanwhile his stuntman spends his days driving around Hollywood in his bosses expensive car.
The film is as much about the late 1960s Hollywood than it is about the murders. The story follows 2 days of the life of Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), who at first is documented going to the cinema to watch her own movie. Robbie portrays her character as gloriously dreamy and almost ‘not with it’. One of Sharon Tate’s final films was ‘The wrecking crew’, in which Tarantino places brilliant homage to the actor by not digitally replacing her with Robbie. August 8th, the second day and the real date of which Sharon Tate was murdered; but Tarantino changes this legacy. The real events occurred as the Charles Manson family snuck into the Tate family home and murdered the now 8 month old pregnant Sharon Tate and her friends .
Tarantino’s version of events spared the lives of everyone but the murderers themselves. I was fascinated when Tex Watson (Austin Butler) comes up with preposterous in the middle of the night to ‘kill the ones that taught us to kill’. Tate and Dalton were neighbours on the Hollywood hills and this time, the killers approached the home of Rick Dalton. After a drunk night together, Dalton had set off on a walk encountering the murderers on his way and Booth had taken his long saved acid type cigarette whilst trying to do the mundane task of feeding his dog. This ridiculous yet chaotic scene involved the killers bursting through the front door and immediately attacking the residents. It was a bloody fight, with gruesome scenarios and the last killer to be burnt alive in the swimming pool by Dalton with his flamethrower. Tarantino humorously gave the alternative version of events of what could have happened on the night of August 8th 1969, but with underlying references of the true story such as blood filled rooms and a pregnant wife.
The film ends with a calm after the storm, Booth is taken to hospital whilst Dalton finally interacts with his neighbours. Sharon Tate’s dreamy voice is heard over the intercom, this being Tarantino’s way to show continuing legacies even when one is not present in a physical form