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The Ending Of Once Upon A Time In Hollywood Explained


As with every Tarantino film, Once Upon a
Time in Hollywood is rich with storytelling depth and meaning, especially as the film
reaches its climax. Now that the movie’s out, it’s time to dig
deep into the ending. Let’s get the biggest development of the ending
out of the way: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a movie in which the Manson family murders
didn’t happen the way they did in real life. It’s clear from Cliff’s visit to the Spahn
Movie Ranch that Charles Manson’s commune is up to something devious, but when it comes
time to commit the infamous murders on Cielo Drive on the night of August 8th, historical
fact gives way to fiction. One drug-fueled decision to change plans and
try to murder Rick Dalton creates a ripple effect. Sharon Tate and her friends survive that night,
and three key members of Manson’s family do not. Though the film ends before it can explore
the full extent of this ripple effect, it’s safe to assume that the black cloud created
by the Manson murders in 1969 was changed in a number of key ways. Joan Didion famously wrote that the night
Sharon Tate died was the night the 1960s ended. The decade was about to end anyway, but perhaps
Rick and Cliff’s acts of self-defense were enough to keep the feeling of the 1960s alive
in Hollywood for at least a little longer. The last shot of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
shows us Rick, having torched Susan Atkins in his pool during the attack on his house,
being invited up to Sharon Tate’s home for drinks. It’s the realization of a fantasy Rick has
been nurturing ever since he figured out that the hottest director in town, Roman Polanski,
and his rising star wife were his neighbors. To Rick, they’re the people who can get him
into all the best Hollywood circles, the people who can resurrect his struggling career. The film offers us no promises as to what
lies in store for Rick’s professional life going forward, but within minutes of meeting
Jay Sebring, he’s already bragging about the night’s events. At worst, he’s going to become a hit at various
Hollywood parties for a while. At best, Rick could end up with everything
from a role in Polanski’s next film to a brand new TV series. Even though Rick gets to brag about the events,
Cliff takes the brunt of the Manson Family’s attack, which includes some bumps, bruises,
and a knife embedded in his hip. Still, he’s cheerful as the ambulance takes
him away, promising Rick that he’ll live to fight another day. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood establishes
early on that Cliff’s reputation is in the gutter since he likely had a hand in his wife’s
suspicious death. It’s hard to believe everyone would forget
about that because he fought off attackers at Rick’s house. If anything, it will likely add to his reputation
as a violent man in some circles. However, in other circles, it could also speak
to his reputation as a badass with a long career in stunt work. Maybe retellings of the event will help make
people like Randy more open to Cliff’s whole “vibe.” “I don’t dig him. And I don’t dig the vibe he brings to the
set.” The bedrock of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
is ultimately the friendship between Cliff and Rick, something which ends up transcending
any dynamic as simple as leading man and stunt double. These men are in some ways closer than brothers,
and that relationship is the throughline that carries the film. In the final minutes of the film, it’s very
clear that Rick feels indebted to Cliff for saving his life. No matter what happens from this point on,
Cliff and Rick are stronger and closer than ever. At the time of her death, Sharon Tate’s acting
career consisted of only a handful of film roles and a few stints on TV, most notably
a recurring role on The Beverly Hillbillies. Still, as Once Upon A Time In… Hollywood shows, she was a talented actor
with a bright future. It’s impossible to guess what Sharon Tate’s
full professional future would hold in a world in which she’s still alive, Once Upon A Time
seems to hint that the best is still to come for Tate. It’s this bittersweet notion, a world in which
Tate is allowed to live on, that most sticks with you as you leave the theater. Because of the mythology that’s sprung up
around her in death, the potential life she never got to have carries even more weight. Even before the Manson family begins its attack
at the end of the film, there are plenty of key differences that establish the alternate
universe in which the film takes place. The biggest difference is obviously that the
Tate murders never take place, but the historical discrepancies throughout the film establish
that the world is changed even before that crime is avoided. What else changes in this new timeline Tarantino
has established, one in which Tate doesn’t die and Polanski doesn’t come home to a crime
scene? What does Joan Didion write about if not the
Manson murders and subsequent trial? Does Bruce Lee, whose legend also looms large
in the film, somehow also get to survive his own tragic early death just four years later? Do the Beatles ever learn about Manson’s strange
interpretation of their lyrics? “Uh, I don’t know.” Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Looper videos about your favorite
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