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YMMV / Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

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  • Artistic License – Chemistry: It would be nearly impossible to get high from a cigarette laced with LSD. Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD) is an unstable organic compound that degrades rapidly at high temperatures. Setting it on fire while it's in a cigarette would destroy it pretty quickly. Lacing cigarettes with PCP or embalming fluid is much more common specifically because those molecules are more stable and can handle the heat.
  • Catharsis Factor: Seeing the Manson family members get absolutely destroyed by Cliff and Rick is guaranteed to set off cheers and applause. May double as a Moment of Awesome.
  • Critical Dissonance: While the movie is largely well-regarded by critics and audiences alike, audiences are comparatively less enthusiastic about the film, which got a "B" CinemaScore (whereas many of Tarantino's other movies have scored higher). The divide likely comes down to the movie being way more character-driven than Quentin Tarantino's other more recent works, along with the movie presuming that its viewers are familiar with the ins and outs of Hollywood business.
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  • Critical Research Failure: Tarantino in defending Bruce Lee's portrayal in the face of criticism, specifically the part where Mike Moh's Bruce boasts about beating Cassius Clay. Bruce Lee's own family and friends have noted that Lee would never have said that, having nothing but admiration for him. Tarantino pointed out that he based it on a passage in Linda Lee's book on her husband. However a Variety article note that the passage that Tarantino cites says "Those who watched [Bruce] Lee would bet on Lee to render Cassius Clay senseless" and nowhere is that boast attributed to Lee himself, or by Lee's wife to him second-hand. In other words, Tarantino mistook a second-hand reported speech for something Lee said.
  • Crosses the Line Twice: Susan, the last surviving hippie who had previously been mauled by Cliff's dog, ends up catching Rick by surprise by tripping into his pool. She ends up firing wild shots into the air, but is otherwise harmless because she's now in a manic panic, trying not to drown in the pool. Rick's response is to go into his shed, pull out his flamethrower and blowtorch her to death. The icing on the cake is when the cops later review the crime scene, Rick ends up getting off for Killing in Self-Defense note . The climax as a whole deploys Kill Bill levels of violence, after the film had been largely devoid of it up to that point. Needless to say, this trope is in full effect for the duration.
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  • Epileptic Trees: Not long after the trailer hit online, several fans began to speculate the identity of Kurt Russell's, at the time, unnamed character. Given his role as a mentor to Cliff and the fact that Tarantino likes to connect his movies, people began theorizing that Russell was secretly reprising the role of Stuntman Mike from Death Proof. Soon after, the character's name was revealed as Randy. This made the theory less likely, but not impossible, as others were quick to point out that Randy could easily just be an alias Stuntman Mike is using. However, this brings up a bit of Fridge Logic. Randy seems to have a sound moral compass; he tries to avoid working with Cliff because of the murder rumors (and because both he and his wife regard Cliff as "creepy"). If Randy really became Mike, what turned him into a Serial Killer, and what happened to his wife? And if Randy isn't Mike, could they be relatives?
  • Fanfic Fuel:
    • In the film's alternate history Charles Manson is still at large after the 1969 murders are stopped, fully able to start up another family. However, Cliff might not know why people were there to kill them, but he knows who they were with and where they can be found. Additionally, Flowerchild, who testified against the family in real life, drove off before the attempted murders and could be a witness in this reality as well.
    • In real history, in the aftermath of the Tate murders, Manson led his family to the LaBianca killings that happened the very next night on August 9. Manson apparently didn't think the killings of Tate was bloody enough and so organized a second murder the night after with the deaths of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, a supermarket executive and his wife, who were chosen randomly as victims just to show the family how to do it properly. So it's more than likely to presume that Manson in an alternate timeline after a failed murder will lead his family/cult to even more violent killings unless the police intervene first.
    • What kind of career will Sharon Tate go on to have in a universe where she wasn't murdered? Also, what will her child be like? Related: what about her husband? Will Roman Polanski still commit rape in a world where his wife and child are alive? The scene at the Playboy mansion seems to imply that he'll end up "fucking it all up" somehow, but is it inevitable in this universe?. One scene in the film shows Sharon buying Hardy's Tess as a gift for her husband, in the hope that he might make a film of it, which happened in real-life. Polanski in real-life did make that movie ten years after her death and dedicated it to her. So in this reality, it's likely that Sharon plays Tess in a Polanski movie made much earlier. Roman was in London preparing The Day of the Dolphin as a project on the night of her death. So it's also possible that movie, which Polanski dropped out in real life in the aftermath, gets made by him too. A minor quibble is if Chinatown still gets made, since in real life that was, as Polanski attested, a Money, Dear Boy project he wasn't especially keen on doing and the reasons for choosing to do so did stem from the aftermath of Tate's death.note 
    • The ending implies that Rick's actions will project him to a higher level of Hollywood stardom. What might his career look like and how will it affect the film industry?
  • Genius Bonus:
    • Rick is essentially a less forward-thinking version of Clint Eastwood, who after his big break on the western series Rawhide ended did see the wisdom of doing Spaghetti Westerns, launching himself into a legendary movie career.
    • Rick Dalton's agent has him sign up to work with Sergio Corbucci, the "second-best" director of spaghetti westerns. Corbucci is a real figure and the director of The Great Silence and the original Django westerns starring Franco Nero.
    • In the climactic final sequence, one of the four Manson Family members gets cold feet and drives away, abandoning her co-conspirators. If you're well-versed in the details of the real Tate-Labianca murders, this detail will seem a bit more meaningful. The woman who drives away is Linda Kasabian, who really did have second thoughts about her role in the murders. In Real Life, she tried to stop her co-conspirators after being asked to serve as a lookout, and later testified against them in court.
    • The dumpster diving Manson Family girls sing a song written by Charles Manson: "Always Is Always Forever."
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • Luke Perry died just a few months after the real Wayne Maunder, and naturally at a much younger age.
    • The movie spends a lot of time following the characters as they drive around LA. It can be a bit hard to watch considering it came out less than a year before the movie's release that Tarantino pressured Uma Thurman into doing a scene in Kill Bill where she had to monologue while driving an old car down a road rather fast. Thurman didn't feel comfortable doing the scene, and ultimately crashed the car, nearly crippling her for life but leaving her with permanent pain. Cliff's car is a VW Karmann-Ghia convertible, the same model involved in Thurman's crash. (Lightened somewhat by the fact that Quentin and Uma have since reconciled and Uma's daughter Maya Hawke has a small role in the movie.)
  • Ho Yay: In this article at, Mary Kay McBrayer argues that Rick and Cliff might be more than just Heterosexual Life-Partners. There's also the fact that Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, considered at various times to be "sexiest man alive" in The '90s and The Oughties really do have good chemistry in their interactions with each other throughout the movie.
  • It's the Same, Now It Sucks!: Tarantino does the exact same twist as Inglourious Basterds of the film's initial premise being set on a historical, real-life event, before turning out to be a more cathartic alternate history, except this time everyone suspected it was coming from the moment the subject matter was announced.
  • Moral Event Horizon: If you weren't aware of the fact that the hippies were the infamous Manson family, Susan gleefully suggesting that they make a hit on Rick just because he's an action actor is probably the last and biggest reminder that the hippies are the bad guys.
  • Narm: The wig Damian Lewis wears to play Steve McQueen is one of the fakest things ever and can take you right out of the film.
  • Nightmare Fuel: The few glimpses we get of Charles Manson and his "Family" are creepy as shit.
    • The second trailer shows a shot of three Manson cultists walking down Cielo Drive at night, knives in hand. It's incredibly unsettling, especially in contrast to the bright and cheerful "peppy Hollywood" mood from the rest of the trailer. Even worse is that Paul Revere and the Raiders' upbeat song "Good Thing" never stops playing over the scene.
    • Everything involving Spahn Ranch is just off in a very ominous way, even though we never actually see Charlie there. Probably the most unsettling is the way everybody clears out of George's shack as Cliff approaches it, then just stands there in the middle of the "street" sullenly watching him go up the steps.
    • So you're an innocent tourist who loves horses and old Hollywood Westerns. What could be more fun and relaxing than a trail ride through an oft-used location — guided by the Manson Family. Truth in Television, incidentally....
    • The gruesome deaths of Tex, Susan and Patricia. Getting mauled by a dog is already horrific enough, but so is having your face smashed in on every nearby surface all across the room—apart from having a can of dog food embedded into your face, getting cut up by shards of glass as you crash through a glass back door, nearly drowning in a pool, and finally getting set ablaze.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Dakota Fanning as Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, who in real-life attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford, is suitably terrifying in her single scene, effortlessly establishing herself as the den mother of the Manson family whose word is law, and who even unnerves the usually unflappable Cliff.
  • Overshadowed by Controversy: Quentin Tarantino hiring Emile Hirsch, who in 2015 assaulted and strangled Paramount executive Danielle Bernfeld, got a lot of outrage, especially given the recent reveal that he'd forced Uma Thurman into a dangerous car stunt that permanently injured her in Kill Bill.
  • Signature Scene: The night of August 9, 1969, the night that the Manson Family gets their ass handed to them by Cliff, his dog, and Rick.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Many reviews complain that Sharon Tate is reduced to a cardboard symbol of innocence who is a complete waste of Margot Robbie's talent, hardly ever even getting to speak. Robbie herself refuted this view, saying she quite enjoyed the challenge of having to do so much work with her face rather than dialogue.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot:
    • How amazing would it have been to see Bruce Lee take part in the Manson gang's comeuppance?
    • For that matter, as long as Tarantino was rewriting history, why not show Manson dying horribly along with his cult members, or at least being brought to justice? It would have increased the film's Catharsis Factor. Also, Tarantino's lack of acknowledgement of the LaBianca murders that happened the night after the Tate killings, which were led by Manson himself, makes the "Happy Ending" feel off since there's no indication that the LaBianca murders and other killings committed by the family after August 8 would not happen.
    • On the other hand, Cliff knows the "Family's" hideout and can describe a lot of the members. It's not too far-fetched to say the cops will be showing up en masse at Spahn Ranch early the next morning. Though it's probably wishful thinking to say that given Cliff's propensity to do things himself, this is a Sequel Hook.
  • Unfortunate Implications:
    • The film has been criticized for valorizing the dying studio system's white male stars and white men being in control behind the camera at the expense of everyone else, whether they be female, not white, or desirous of social change.
    • More specifically, the depiction of Bruce Lee has gotten criticism, with some decrying it as reducing him to a walking joke even though it was a time where he was struggling to make it as a "non-white" actor in Hollywood (enough to drive him to move back to China and work there after the end of The Green Hornet).
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic:
    • It can be hard for some viewers to cheer on Rick killing Susan with a flamethrower. We know what she did in real life, but as far as Rick knows, she and the rest of her gang are primarily guilty of petty breaking and entering, and being hippies. He wasn’t present when they actually threatened and tried to murder Cliff and Francesca. She did have a gun and was firing wildly into the air after breaking through the glass door of his house screaming, but by the time she fell into the pool she was more or less helpless and some might find her death by flamethrower unnecessarily brutal as a result. Though it should also be noted that Rick had been drinking heavily all night and probably wasn’t thinking clearly. He just knew she’d invaded his house, had a gun, and was firing it; he might not have even gotten a clear view of how incapacitated she was.
    • Cliff beating up Clem Grogan becomes quite a lot nastier if you know Grogan's real history: he was a mentally handicapped Spahn Ranch employee who the Manson Family manipulated with drugs after arriving on the ranch. Prosecutors even sympathized with him enough that he's the only member of the Family to have ever been granted parole.


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