I’m a great big slobbering fan of Quentin Tarantino’s films, so when I saw that he had released a “novelization” of his most recent film, “Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood” I added it to my shopping list.
I greatly enjoyed reading this book, but one thing you need to know about it is that it is not the same story as the film. First of all, since it is a book there is a lot more of the story told from inside the heads of the characters. You see the world through their eyes and histories, rather than through your eyes and Tarantino’s camera. There are long expository sequences recounting the history of cinema and television, as regarded by different characters. These sequences inform the actions of the characters, but this exposition is not present in the film.
Actually, the book is edited so that the entire “point” of the story is different. If you utilize my theory that a well-crafted story ends on the point, then the end of the movie indicates that what Rick Dalton really wants to be is a real hero (like his friend Cliff Booth is), but the end of the book indicates that what Rick Dalton really wants to be is a real actor. This is a big difference.
Some of the Charlie Manson stuff from the movie is present in the book, but much of it has been edited out. Rick Dalton even makes some different choices in the book than he does in the movie, or at least that is what is implied. Anyway, the book is different than the film. I enjoyed both, but they are not exactly the same. I wonder if the book is the movie that Tarantino kind of wishes he could have released, but the movie is the movie that he knew he had to release to avoid bad reviews. Maybe Tarantino is just making fun of the way that novelizations are almost always different from the films.
The design of the book is really cool, mimicking the design of movie novelizations from the sixties. There are even ads for sixties books and movies in the back. I wish there was an ad for Red Apple cigarettes. I have so many old SF paperbacks with cigarette ads in them.
Anybody who knows me well enough to read this here blog knows that I enjoy reading books by Neal Stephenson. Some people, including people I otherwise respect, consider him to be long-winded and tiresome. “Long-winded” I cannot argue against, but I find him to be endlessly entertaining.
DODO is 742 pages of epistolary diachronical action. It is chock full of manuscripts, emails, journal entries, after action reports, radio transcripts, running around, helicopters, car chases through the streets of Boston, boat rides, sex scenes, battles, beer drinking, quantum physics, holiday parties, and team meetings.
It took me more than a month to grind through it all, but I enjoyed the whole thing.
I liked it, overall. It is first and foremost definitely a Star Wars movie. It failed to do some things I was hoping it would do, but it also declined to do some things I was hoping it would not do, so I guess that’s a wash. It did do some things I was not expecting it to do, but that I am glad it did, so that’s a net positive. I suppose that I am most impressed with the way that it resolved some things that had to be resolved, but left open some things that were more important to leave open. Well done, Mr. Abrams. There are still plenty of people who aren’t going to like this on its own, and people who aren’t going to like it as the finale to a 9 film series, but I think it’s good.
I am an unabashed Rian Johnson fan. His first three films, Brick, The Brothers Bloom, and Looper, are part of my permanent library. I’m not sure why Disney thought it would be a good idea to have him lead a Star Wars main line film, but I admire what he tried to do, dragging the franchise in a new and unexpected direction. Knives Out is a return to what Johnson does best: Twisty little stories about people who’ve made bad choices.
I don’t mean to say that Knives Out is one of those mysteries that misleads you every step of the way. In fact, it’s one of those that lays out nearly everything you need to know, just may be you don’t realize it at the time. If you’ve seen the trailer for it, you know that a veritable wreath of murder weapons is in view for much of the film. The rules of drama dictate that something should happen, but how? Is it just a rack of red herrings?
The dialog is sharp, and yet realistic. The acting is enthusiastic, and yet not inhumanly hammy. The set is gothic, and yet not baroque. The detective is smart, and yet not brilliant. The protagonist is a good person, and yet not an angel. The script is funny, and yet not comedic. This movie walks the finest tightropeimaginable, and it never wobbles.
Each time I watch a Rian Johnson film, I feel like had I never watched one before, I’d go back and find out what I’ve been missing. See this one. Watch his other films. Look forward to the shape of the plot. Pay attention. I promise you will find the experience rewarding.