In Review: Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Submerged in a murk of ruminative nostalgia, Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood emerges with a clarity for former masculine ideals and a sense of eras coming to a close. A culture is dying, and its creators’ existential security with it. We follow a fictional dwindling movie star and his stunt man as they hurtle into obsoletion, aware of the tide turning beneath them while they are also too stuck in their ways to adapt instead. We also follow the emerging star Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) as she wanders casually toward history, an event that marks both a beginning and an end.

As Tarantino crafts this tale, his most ponderous and slippery creation, it becomes apparent that he’s grappling with the current state of filmmaking affairs, rewriting history to discuss an industry on the precipice of seismic change on multiple fronts. But of the many things that Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is – bruised, affectionately satirical, hesitant – conclusive is possibly not one of them. It’s Tarantino’s least demonstrative film, and ultimately his most open to interpretation.

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In Review: Terminal

“Margot Robbie. Your pulp didn’t pop, and your Sin City femme fatale was not a sin-sation. You’re safe.”

Several things are certain with the Margot Robbie-starring pulp thriller Terminal. First, Robbie and the film are largely in drag – as a femme fatale for the star, and the movie itself as a hyper-designed genre piece. Second, it’s not always good drag but a hoot nonetheless. Third, it’s essentially only Robbie that emerges unscathed. RuPaul and Frank Miller wouldn’t be upset, just disappointed.

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For Your Consideration: Best Actress – Margot Robbie

This year has been a filled with richer female-driven films, and it’s going to be a photo finish for any year-end kudos. With solid work from Blythe Danner and Lily Tomlin (which could have been slam dunks in previous years, mind you) getting unfortunately left out already, and clear leads egregiously aiming for Supporting consideration, we finally have the photo-finish lineup we usually see in Best Actor. Year-end catch-up can often yield a robust surprise, and you should make time for a forgotten gem of the summer: Margot Robbie in Craig Zobel’s post-apocalyptic adaptation of Z for Zachariah.

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Her sharp-shooting trophy wife of The Wolf of Wall Street is unrecognizable to her unwordly farm-girl Ann in Zachariah. Her evident versatility lends the quiet and nuanced performance an edge upon which the film hinges – with plot moments developing slowly, every crucial relationship discovery and complication is plain on Robbie’s subtly expressive face. Unassuming, but fiercely present with her adept scene partners Chiwetel Ejiofor and Chris Pine, she sells Ann’s naive sexual awakening without getting lost in the film’s more overt themes.

Perhaps being ignored because the film is too unobtrusive and relaxed in its observations of primal human interaction to register against weightier fare at this time of year, Zachariah is at its most immediate when focused on Robbie’s precise acting choices. It may be less blatant, but her work is never undercooked. With a field of more showy emoting, it’s refreshing to see a lead actress performance as fully-realized, but with more delicate intentions.