What is going on with ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’?

The poster — choices were made!

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Since Quentin Tarantino’s new film “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” was announced early last year, the director’s ninth feature has been a point of contentious, fizzy speculation. First came the basic premise — Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt star as a ‘60s actor-stunt double duo struggling to adjust to a changing Hollywood against the backdrop of the Manson murders.

The project became entangled in a personal relations nightmare right out of the gate. Tarantino came under fire for on-set harassment allegations and his ties to abusers like Harvey Weinstein and Roman Polanski. When it was revealed that real-life Manson victim Sharon Tate (portrayed by Margot Robbie) would carry a major “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” side plot, Debra Tate slammed the director for his “exploitative” use of her late sister.

Despite these concerns, development of what Simon Pegg called Tarantino’s “California movie” continued as planned. Everything remained tightly shrouded in secrecy until first look photos revealed Leo doing a Corny Collins impression. Margot as Sharon looking like a Glossier rep who’s never dealt with skincare problems. Brad and Leo sporting looks older than the parents of Leo’s last five girlfriends.

With the film riding off glitzy waves of controversy and anticipation ahead of its July release, it would seem that one of the next logical steps would be to roll out a promising poster. The teaser images for the director’s last two movies — “The Hateful Eight” and “Django Unchained” — are designed in a striking minimalist fashion, with splashes of bloody red hinting at what was to come.

None of these elements are traceable in the “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” poster, which resembles a cardboard movie theater standee or fanmade bootleg poster more than anything else. It features Pitt and DiCaprio brooding in a hastily Photoshopped fashion, in front of the Hollywood sign. Sure, the hippie scene and glossy Hollywood intrigue detailed in the film’s premise isn’t present, nor are any plot teases to draw in skeptical moviegoers. But, hey, you’re not bound to forget about where exactly all of this yellow color coordination took place once upon a time.

Viewing this poster in all its hasty New York Instagram filter likeness was an experience. For the first time, I truly understand the “Saturday Night Live” sketch where Ryan Gosling has a breakdown over “Avatar” using the Papyrus typeface. The person behind the “graphic design is my passion” frog meme was hired by Sony and followed a five-minute Adobe Creative Cloud tutorial to make this poster!

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” might become the think piece nexus of the summer, but I plan to think of it as the Tarantino movie that ripped off the aesthetics of the “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” poster. Actually, I’ll always remember it this way.

Edited by Joe Cross | jcross@themaneater.com

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