Meaning of the movie “Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood” and ending explained

Meaning of the movie “Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood” and ending explained Films

Quentin Tarantino directed another comedy-drama film called Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which premiered in May 2019. He is recognized by many film critics as a film that recognizes the handwriting of the famous Quentin Tarantino. One of the film critics, Peter Bradshaw, gave the film the highest rating and noted that the film is very interesting and exciting, inviting all moviegoers to watch it.

What is the movie “Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood” about?

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.

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.

“Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood” plot explained

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.

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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.

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.Meaning of the movie “Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood” and ending explained

Explanation of the ending Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood

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.

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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.

PSYCHOLOGICAL MEANING “Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood”

If you know how this story is supposed to end, then as Sharon is shown, the atmosphere gets more tense, because we know that she will die soon. We understand that the past cannot be changed, that she will not be saved, and therefore the whole film is accompanied by a feeling of anxiety and that same Tarantino suspense.

The film’s tension intensifies when we see Charles Manson’s henchmen at the ranch. An unprepared viewer will most likely only guess that now you need to be afraid, but will not understand what. And for the trained viewer, who knows that on that ranch the members of the “Family” said mass to the devil, butchered animals and drank their blood, this scene is comparable in intensity to the first scene from “Inglorious Basterds”.

Tarantino knows what the audience expects and plays with our expectations. How can we be sure that this is what he intended? He left us thick hints, for example, 17 minutes before the end, just before the climax, in the background of the main action, a show is shown on TV where the host says “and now it’s time for what I know you’ve all been waiting for” – and now it’s time for what I know you’ve all been waiting for .


I hope that those who have already watched this film have read up to this point, so you remember that events unfold in a completely different way. Roman Polanski’s charming wife escapes, as do her friends, while Cliff escapes with a non-fatal wound.

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The execution of the hippies who attempted to kill them is exaggeratedly cruel, the viewer relishes the massacre of them, they get exactly what they deserve, we are glad that the victims were saved. It seems that there is no longer that brutal murder that it never happened.

According to contemporaries, after this murder, “The waves of shock that passed through the city touched everyone.” Even now, anyone who learns the story of this murder will be hurt by it. Incredible cruelty and lack of motive leave a painful impression, cause a feeling of insecurity. It seems that this can happen to anyone, regardless of whether you live carefully.

So why did Tarantino rewrite the ending of this tragic story? In psychotherapy, this is how they work with psychological trauma. As you work with the psychologist, the victim of the trauma is gradually, with the help of special techniques, brought to:
1. commit mental reprisal against his offender
2. create an alternative ending with a positive ending.

I don’t want to go too deep into the theory of how it works (maybe there will be a separate article on this topic), but it definitely works. Of course, this does not help to forget the trauma, but it helps the brain and body to live and survive it. Because in trauma we kind of freeze and in order to continue living a full life, it is necessary to “unfreeze” this trauma so that it “dissolves”. Mental revenge and inventing another denouement are, as it were, a patronus, the bright light of which burns through the lump of trauma and destroys it. After that, you can again breathe freely, move, live, laugh, love.

Injuries are not only individual, there are family, national, and universal injuries.Wars, catastrophes, terrorist attacks – this is what frightens, paralyzes millions of people. You can work with trauma only with a psychotherapist, but not everyone can turn to a psychologist. But everyone watches movies. It seems that Tarantino has taken on the role of the savior of mankind and plans to heal the psychological trauma of everyone who watches his films with his paintings.

A parallel can be drawn even with the way the massacre of intruders is shown. When dealing with trauma at a certain stage, it is important to physically respond to your anger, to release it. To do this, you can break something, beat a pillow, scream. In the film, we live how criminals are torn to shreds, burned alive, threshed on the table just enough to satisfy the viewer’s thirst for revenge and mentally say “enough”.

This film can be viewed from many different angles. It has many layers of understanding, jokes, interesting parallels, allusions and Easter eggs. For example, did you notice that Cliff’s dog Brandy is his stunt double in the same way Cliff is Dalton’s stunt double? She is also silent, well-trained, very dangerous, but loyal, and saves her friend’s life at the crucial moment.

Tarantino’s idea of ​​avoiding hackneyed plots is also psychologically literate, offering us a non-standard developing story, which should be the life of every person, because just trying to conform to standards, patterns and accepted norms can poison life like nothing else.

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