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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: A Novel av…

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: A Novel (utgåvan 2021)

av Quentin Tarantino (Författare)

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygDiskussioner
1348161,205 (3.92)Ingen/inga
Titel:Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: A Novel
Författare:Quentin Tarantino (Författare)
Info:Harper Perennial (2021), 400 pages
Samlingar:Ditt bibliotek


Once Upon a Time in Hollywood av Quentin Tarantino


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As a fan of the movie, in fact a fan of all of Tarantino's movies, I was (not surprisingly) very excited at the idea of reading his own novelization. I've read a number of movie novelizations in my day, particularly back in the 80's when it was more popular. Before the advent of the home video collection, if a movie's fan wanted to revisit the film they loved so much, they would buy the book and read and re-read to their heart's content. These were typically written on assignment by a known (but not too popular) author. Alan Dean Foster comes to mind as someone who probably made a pretty good living writing movie novelizations.

So when Tarantino decided to write his own, it was with a bit of perplexed curiosity that I approached the novel. As this is typically farmed out to someone completely separate and independent of the original film, obviously this project started off from a different footing. The big question I asked myself was, why? Why was he writing this?

The answer came across loud and clear in the 400+ pages of this little book: He had more of this story he wanted to tell. Characters in the movie get fleshed out with much more depth in this novel. We get backstory and inner monologues (the use of the omniscient narrator is in full use here as we often get to hear thoughts from every character in a scene).

He also wanted to dish out his thoughts on Hollywood from the 50's and 60's, and man-oh-man does he have a lot of thoughts. If you removed all of the rambling discourse on this subject, the book would easily be 2/3rds its size. In fact, that's my only gripe, here. I'm sure QT would be highly qualified to write a non-fiction book about the evolution of television and movie properties during these decades (and, I'm sure, easily traveling forward into the 70's and beyond) and perhaps he should do that, but to blend it into the middle of a "novel" like this detracted from the story and these characters. Not that it wasn't interesting, just that I wanted to know what my characters were doing, not the presumed motivations behind the casting of dozens of shows and movies that I'd never heard of.

Also, I suspect, Tarantino wanted a chance to revisit the now-infamous Bruce Lee scene from the movie. If you haven't seen it, the stuntman character of Cliff Booth, played by Brad Pitt, easily defeats Bruce Lee in fight and shows Bruce to be an over-hyped egomaniac. Whether this is historically accurate or not is irrelevant: this is how Tarantino depicted him in this film. Lee's daughter very publicly slammed both Tarantino and this movie when it came out and made quite a bit of noise about it, garnering some notable online attention. In reading this scene with the aforementioned inner monologues and motivations revealed to us, it felt like Quentin was toning down his rhetoric and softening the blow. I doubt this was the sole reason he wrote this book, but it was certainly part of it. That's for sure.

Beyond all of that, it's actually a very good book. If the movie had never been made, this would have been a great read. However, because the movie came first, this book's deviations from the film were highly detracting. For instance, the grand climax of the film never takes place in this book. It's only mentioned in passing in chapter 7, about a quarter of the way through the book. The book takes place over a 2 day period while Rick is filming scenes for a TV pilot, which is shown in the movie. That climax would have taken place months later. Tarantino throws that entire scene out there in a couple paragraphs where he fast forwards through Rick's (the main character) entire career before coming back to the "present" and resuming the story. For those hoping the book would end similar to the film, better luck next time. But if this had been a standalone book, the story of Rick (primarily) and hist stuntman Cliff (secondarily) was laid out in a much better fashion than the movie, which needed some extra action sequences to keep it from being too bland of a drama for what audiences would have expected from Quentin Tarantino.

If this had been a standalone book, not a movie first, and if it had not included probably 100 pages of mostly irrelevant discussion about this history of Hollywood in the 50's and 60's, I would have given this 5 stars. As it is, 4 stars ain't bad.

Also, one final thing which struck me as odd, Tarantino writes this in the present tense, and when he show scenes from the past (back story) he wrote them in the past tense, which is fine, lots of authors do this. But when he includes future stories (like in chapter 7 when he fast forwards and talks about what happens to Rick's career after the flame thrower incident) he also writes those in the past tense. It's as if his rule was: present tense for the 2 days during which the book actually takes place, and past tense for any other time periods. Curious choice. I kind of agree that writing all of those fast forwarded future scenes in the future tense would have been awkward. "The next day, Rick's adventures hit the news, and it became the talk of the town," is how it reads now, even though this scene takes place 7 months in the future. To have that read: "The following day, Rick's adventures will hit the news, and it will become the talk of the town," well that's fine for a single line, but several paragraphs work could be difficult for a reader to follow. I don't know. I'm still mulling over this choice. Still feels odd to me. ( )
  invisiblelizard | Aug 28, 2021 |
Really fun. Slightly overgrown (but never too much). I flew through it. ( )
  breic | Jul 31, 2021 |
Less a novelization than an expansion. Tarantino had much more material than he included in the movie. A lot of fun. ( )
  beaujoe | Jul 29, 2021 |
I have not devoured a book in a long time, but Tarantino’s novelization of his movie of the same name (without the ellipsis) is a totally fin read not only for people who liked his movie, but also people who love movie lore. In this book Tarantino fills in the backstories of his main characters (like how Cliff killed his wife) and also to his asides on Hollywood really worked back in the 1950’s and ‘60’s. And with a nod to another of his films, this book was released as a mass market paperback. It’s total summer reading fun. ( )
  etxgardener | Jul 12, 2021 |
"Rick knows that will never happen, but it's a nice thing to say." (pg. 392)

This line, coming towards the end of a scene between Steve McQueen and the fictional character Rick Dalton, reflects two of the three great things about Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino's novelization of his own 2019 film of the same name. Both book and film are a re-imagining of events in Hollywood in 1969, and there is an exuberance to this on the part of Tarantino that makes it magical. The film reflects the magic of movies simply by being beautifully written and shot, and also provides a happy ending to one of the era's horrors (the Manson murders). With this alternate history, a surprisingly humane Tarantino provides healing for a cultural wound, and he conveys it by showing his deep-seated love of the screen and screen idols.

In the novel, this climactic (and cathartic) Manson scene is mentioned only in passing, about one hundred pages into the story, before the book continues forging its own path. This choice is not only of practical interest (we read about the boost to Rick Dalton's career caused by his and Cliff's spectacular foiling of Manson's plot), but is one of the first real signs that the book is its own beast, and not a run-of-the-mill movie 'novelization'. Tarantino's not here for the ego-boost of being a published author, like many 'celebrity' writers. He's here to play, and takes the game seriously. It's similar to his evident respect for movie-making: "they don't just pay us to do it. They pay us to do it great" (pg. 394). Tarantino knows there's more to this story, and he's always respected the greater space and license that a novel provides over a film. He's one of those "certain directors [that] make their films with the same power that great authors do" (pg. 228), and he thrives in his new environment. Those who admire how he constructs and paces his films won't be surprised to learn that the leap is not as wide as you might initially think.

The book, then, follows the film in being both a lovingly-constructed, joyous piece of art and something that revels in its license for indulgence. As with some of those beautiful shots and scenes in the movie, Tarantino enjoys himself in the book: the afore-mentioned Steve McQueen scene with Rick; James Stacy riding on his motorbike; the love of film history, trivia and miscellany; and the expansion of Tarantino's self-created Western mock-ups Bounty Law and Lancer. He provides Trudi, the precocious child actor who stole her scenes in the film, with a filmography that includes being cast in a (fictional) film he himself directs in the Nineties (pg. 354). He raises, delightfully, the notion of Michael Caine being cast in the McQueen role in The Great Escape (pg. 377). He even has Rick Dalton sign an autograph for a six-year-old Quentin Tarantino (pg. 364). It's wish fulfilment in the best possible sense: Tarantino is enjoying himself, while also ensuring he maintains his auteur standards. That's been the modus operandi of his career since its beginning, and he doesn't falter here. And we enjoy it too. To appropriate the line from the start of this review, we know this alternate history will never happen, and we know that Hollywood magic provides gloss to an often dark reality (as Manson showed), but we also know that these are damn nice things for Tarantino to say. The book, as with the movie, is a lot of good, high-quality fun, and we revel in it.

But I said at the start that this line reflects two of the three great things about Tarantino's novelization of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. There is the catharsis of the alternate history and the joyousness of the story. What, then, is the third? The third is the most surprising: it's actually a damn good novel, by any reasonable (i.e. non-snobby) metric.

Not only is Once Upon a Time in Hollywood a cut above your usual movie novelization, but it's a cut above your standard pulp fiction, just as Pulp Fiction was a class above the pulpy crime films it was inspired by. Tarantino is arguably the best writer of dialogue alive today; it just pops, and this novel not only has great passages from the movie but delivers its own. Tarantino has always had an evident Elmore Leonard influence in his writing for the screen, and he leans with great success on that here (the writer is namechecked in chapter 12). Despite one or two clunky moments (so few it would be churlish to quote them), Tarantino's book is very readable. Sometimes, he even provides a flourish. The washed-up Rick's "downswings seemed to find a deeper basement than before" (pg. 109). Sharon Tate has an argument with her husband, and she's always had "such a sunny presence that whenever she blocks out the sun, the effect is chilling" (pg. 385). Some readers will always be inclined to gatekeep, but Tarantino certainly isn't embarrassing himself. This is good writing.

Tarantino also writes good characters. Greater backstory is added to Rick and Cliff (I was going to say greater depth, but because of the different demands of the medium, the depth in the film is provided by the great acting by Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt). Some of this was a mixed bag (I liked the information on Cliff's wife, but found the "greatest hero of World War Two" stuff hard to buy). But some of it is great. The rationale behind the infamous Bruce Lee scene is convincing, while elsewhere Rick is given closure for his character: in the final pages, he recognises his good fortune to be in the movie-making business. Tarantino knows how to spin a story. When the author digresses into a colourful sidebar about Cliff lending money to his screw-up friend Buster (pg. 66), it got me thinking that this would be recognised as a good story even without the Tarantino name. The book is refreshing, it has energy and originality, and Tarantino is bolder here than many contemporary novelists. Not to mention his dialogue puts them to shame.

What, then, is the result of Tarantino's foray into novel-writing? The big question that remains is how much debt is owed to the film the book is based on. Certainly, it would be difficult to get into this book without having seen the film; the foreknowledge definitely enhances it. At the same time, the book is well-constructed, with great characters, dialogue and scenes. That shouldn't be discarded, or diminished, just because Tarantino had already deployed them in a different medium.

The book even has literary merit, using the greater space and more considered pace that is allowed to a novel to enhance the themes of the film. Leaning more heavily into Rick Dalton's anxieties as a washed-up actor, we begin to see more readily how the Tate murders frame the wider story of how Hollywood chews up its famous denizens. And when Tarantino writes of how Charles Manson would have abandoned his hippie 'Family' cult, "say goodbye to all of them, all that he created, and all he taught them, to trade places with Micky Dolenz and join the Monkees" (pg. 162), he skewers both Manson and the counterculture myth in the same breath. The Sixties dream never went sour; it was always sour. The flower children were always Boomers underneath, and the fame-chasing, underage-groupie-loving superficiality that Tarantino identifies in that line is emphatic. This is a compelling, provocative and downright literary weave from a bona fide writer. Tarantino is in command of his medium, and it bodes well for any writing he might pursue in the future. A great novelist? It's too soon to say, but after Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, the prospect seems far less ridiculous. ( )
3 rösta MikeFutcher | Jul 11, 2021 |
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