Queen & Slim
Once Upon a Time In Hollywood
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In an interview with the director, the host described the film as "a screwball comedy that turns into a nightmare." The director added, "I hope a delicious nightmare." Through and through, the film delivers: laughs, surprises, scares, or as the director says, "all my films have elements of comedy, anxiety and fear." Everything here seems to work together — the script, the actors, the framing and camera movement — and as the story progresses, what we can foresee remains delightful to consume, and the surprises deliver deeply on the film's themes — inequality and it's effects on the city's inhabitants; the family unit and today's unique generation gap; and the upsides and downsides of ambition. While I haven't thought much about the film since it ended, it hasn't pestered me and forced me to ask difficult questions, which I typically assume a great film will do — when I think about my experience of watching it, the film shines as a radiant moment of what cinema can synthesize into a 2 hour experience. There's an understanding of the human condition and an alchemy of genre and feelings, that is simply worth getting your eyes and ears on.
There are few movies that attempt to be a 2 hour character study. Where the film falls short is when director, Todd Phillips, relies on cinematic devices (editing and soundtrack, namely) to do the heavy lifting that the oh so capable Phoenix could have leveraged with a few more powerfully written scenes. Just as the city of Gotham is split over the city's murders at the hands of Joker, so too does Phillips force a split in the audience as to how we should feel about our protagonist. At one point, the intrusion of an upbeat pop-culture tune in a Tararinoesque attempt, falls short as we feel the director forcing his hand and distancing us from the narrative at a moment in which we should be following joker closer than ever before. Will you be entertained? For the most part, yes. Will you be surprised? A few times. Will you be satisfied? I doubt it. The questions the film pose are few and far between with a lack of substantive context and development to really take a stand. As the film unfolds, it ultimately betrays the depths of character promised by Phoenix's work in the opening 30 minutes. We wonder through plot lines, motivating his "madness" instead of getting to the core of it. I wish it could have been more, but it felt more like a hologram than a memorable film.