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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Barron » Robert Barron - Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Robert Barron - Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Robert Barron - Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
TOPICS: Hollywood

I just saw quentin tarantino's latest movie called once upon a time in Hollywood and I'm actually a big fan of his movies now don't write me letters I know they're over the top and there's certainly uneven in quality of a hateful eight I thought was a terrible movie, but he's made some very fine movies and they have all kinds of interesting quirky qualities, but at the heart of a lot of his movies is it is a moral vision often the characters are compelled under extreme duress to make a moral choice and this one struck me the same way. It's a rather extraordinary showing it seems to me of a morally upright person at work in the world it stars two of the biggest names in Hollywood so Leonardo dicaprio plays Rick Dalton and Brad Pitt plays cliff booth.

Now Dalton is a just over the hill actor so he's been a TV and movie largely cowboy bad guy kind of actor quite popular quite famous but as a movie opens, he's just kind of over the hill and thinking about the you know, the end of his career and booth is his hyper loyal friend stuntman and all-around helper, so it becomes clear that booth has helped him professionally but also helps him in almost every aspect of his personal life. I think he exemplifies if I can put it this way the cowboy virtues so he plays a cowboy stuntman. Most of his professional life has been portraying cowboys. Well becomes clear in the movies that he himself walks through this just contemporary scene.

Well 50 years ago 1969. It said but walks through it as a kind of modern-day cowboy what struck me to was is played by Brad Pitt? And pitt is 55 so if this character in the movie is 55 in 1969, that means he was born in 19:14 and it's time you turn the movie. He's from another age the parents of this character would have been born in the late 19th century. So he comes up out of this kind of older America and exemplifies these virtues well what also struck me as I watch the movie was he shows forth the classical aristotelian virtues what are they well they've been articulated from the classical period all the way through the Christian period but justice temperance courage and prudence, I think all four can be seen in a fairly unambiguous way in this character.

In fact, I'll come back to this I think in some ways he's the least morally ambiguous character in tarantino's movies now, what do I mean when I say these things? Well justice, what's justice? Justice is rendering to each his due. That's Plato's famous definition we would say today probably it means doing the right thing right doing what's owed to someone what's the right thing to do on their behalf? Well this man exemplifies justice to an extraordinary degree. First of all, I'd say in his friendship which is absolute its loyal its dedicated at every level helping his friend as I say professionally personally everything in between he's utterly dedicated to him what he's successful and when he's not successful even when even when we see by the end of the movie he's being dismissed.

He said I can't afford you anymore. He nevertheless remains resolute in friendship now what else can we say? Well temperance and I don't want to give away too much of the plot in this in this analysis, but at one point he meets this young girl. Who's just a kid I mean, she looks 17 or 18 something like that and I won't say too much, but she let's say makes herself available sexually to him in a very sort of explicit way well here this man and you know has every opportunity to take advantage sexually of this young woman and in a way it was striking to me in a Hollywood movie that he doesn't do it that he realizes that would not be the right thing to do so there's justice but also temperance which means the ability to control one's own passions to order one's interior life in such a way that you serve justice let's see what temperance is if I know the right thing to do, but I'm so out of out of control internally, I'm lacking temperance and therefore I won't do the right thing.

Well he reveals and again, I say remarkably for a Hollywood movie temperance which allows him visa vie this girl to do the right thing now he offers to take her home and there's where the plot becomes very interesting because it's clear now that she's a member of the manson family. Now we know about them now they didn't in 1969 and her home it turns out is this spawn? Movie ranch, which is a real place and really was inhabited by the manson family 50 years ago. It was an abandoned movie set where they would do westerns and so in the context of our movie Brad Pitt's character knew it. He had he had done filming out there. So he said oh I know where that is and so he brings her out there.

Well, then we see that the whole creepy manson family is living at this place so he drops her off, but he realizes no I you know I know this guy George who used to live here he kind of ran the ranch and and I work with him and he begins asking how is George and he gets these very evasive strange answers and he's not satisfied, you know, and someone says oh, George is taking a nap. Oh why you know, I like to I'll go in and wake him up I want to talk to him and it gets a lot of you know opposition but he makes his way and here it's very clear. He's like a cowboy because he's walking down this long kind of dusty corridor and then makes his way despite the creepy behavior of the manson family to the house where he's met by another turns out to be squeaky fromme herself when we know about his story and she puts up obstacles to him but keeping his cowboy cool, but yet being insistent.

He said no no, I know he's saying that but but I i need to go in there and see him I want to talk to him so sure enough. He he goes and you know resolves that situation to his satisfaction the point is with tremendous sense of justice doing the right thing. He knew the right thing even though he'd not seen this man in ten years yet he knew I kind of make sure he's all right and by God, he does it showing a commitment to justice and tremendous courage as he's facing down these weird people and they're about 20 of them at one point 20 to 1 he doesn't quite know what they're gonna do. But yet like a old-fashioned cowboy makes his way so we see temperance there you know and finally I'd mentioned the virtue of prudence and prudence has been called the queen of the virtues because prudence is the practical know-how how to apply the abstract moral principles in the given situation it's very interesting the queen of the virtues because without prudence that I can't instantiate the virtues.

It's the it's the know-how morally speaking how to apply the principles here. And now well what I noticed in the Brad Pitt character is very interesting is he's a man of tremendous strength and that becomes clear very early on he's in a kind of playful fight with Bruce lee so that the character playing Bruce lee himself and the two of them are in this kind of kind of mock you know fight so he's a man of tremendous of strength, but he also knows how and when and to what degree to express his strength the lee example is a good one of at a very low level he wanted to kind of teach Bruce lee a lesson he was being a little bit cocky and arrogant and so he uses a very small amount he might say of his of his strength to teach him a lesson, but then at the spawn ranch I don't give too much away, but he does express himself pretty violently one point but in a constrained manner he's dealing with these crazy people.

He's not quite sure who they are but he uses just enough force to keep them at bay and to warn them but then he he leaves before the thing escalates into an all-out, you know donnybrook and then again without spoiling the ending too much at the very end. He knows ok this is the time when I have to use every ounce of strength that I've got this is now the moment to express it. And yes a man of prudence. Someone can be just they know the right thing they can have plenty of courage, but they lack the prudence to know this is the way to express my strength and my courage in the given situation but Brad Pitt's character cliff booth does seem to exemplify prudence to an extraordinary degree now listen, I'm not arguing here that that we see a portrait of a Catholic saint this is not a flawless figure in fact there's a suggestion it's never resolved but a suggestion that that he killed his wife many years before there's a little flashback where it it's not clear what happened?

It's not clearly he did it, but that's the reputation is he Francis of Assisi? No, he's not a Catholic saint but yet I found it fascinating today when there's you know, we kind of disparage the classical virtues and thinking that eat that word vir tous latin ver manliness, you know, this is kind of old cowboy. I think of the John Wayne movies and you know or Jimmy Stewart as a cowboy and era Gary cooper people like that the kind of that strong silent morally clear figures that Brad Pitt's character does harken back to that and also in the context of this movie said in 1969 a time when a lot of that classical world was falling apart when when much of the moral clarity that we had prior was say to the second world war was was splintering apart the tarantino chooses to tell this story. I thought was very interesting the story of of a person of classical virtue and I think for that reason alone is worth those see in this movie.
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