A Tale of Two Sharon Tate Films.

hilary duff the haunting of sharon tate

The following contains spoilers for The Haunting of Sharon Tate and Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood.

The Haunting of Sharon Tate is objectively bad.

Starring Hilary Duff as the titular Tate, it follows the heavily pregnant movie star’s last days with her friends, hairdresser Jay Sebring (Jonathan Bennett), coffee heiress Abigail Folger (Lydia Hearst) and her boyfriend Wojciech Frykowski (Pawel Szajda), at her home in the Hollywood Hills before they were slain there by Charles Manson’s followers fifty years ago this month. 

In this movie, Tate encounters Manson several times and he plays on her mind, appearing in her dreams and—it was rumoured—in premonitions of her death at his command. The Haunting of Sharon Tate flips the horrific murders that are widely believed to have been “the end of the ’60s,” as Joan Didion wrote, by having Tate and her friends fight back and prevent their own deaths.

margot robbie once upon a time in hollywood

Sound familiar? This is also the premise of Quentin Tarantino’s recently released retelling of the murders, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. His version is preoccupied with washed up TV star Rick Dalton and his stunt double Cliff Booth, played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, respectively. Their debauched lifestyles in Hollywood orbit around the Manson family, while Dalton lives next door to Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate on Cielo Drive, whose murder they preempt by killing the Manson followers themselves.

While Hollywood appears to be the better film, starring today’s elite of the town in which it’s set, crafted by a famous auteur and raking in millions at the worldwide box office, it’s representation of women has been the subject of hot debate.

This film first came onto my radar when a reporter made headlines at Cannes for asking Tarantino why Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate had dismal lines. He shot the reporter down by snottily replying that he rejected her hypotheses. In this respect I would argue that Haunting is actually the superior film, because it gives Tate agency, whereas Hollywood casts her as a bit player in her own would-be murder.

That reporter was right: Robbie is wasted in Hollywood, but what little scenes she does have she shines in. On the contrary, Duff could never be accused of being a good actor (except in her luminous role as book publisher Kelsey Peters on Younger), but she imbues Tate with hopes, dreams and participation in her own life as the main subject of Haunting. The only inkling of these traits we see in Hollywood is when Tate sees herself on screen at an impromptu matinee of her movie The Wrecking Crew. Even the final scene of Hollywood, it is not the most famous and pre-occupying figure of the Manson murders that weren’t who checks on the commotion next door, but Jay Sebring. This is an excuse for him—and, by extension, the movie, which never lets up in this respect—to fawn over Dalton’s fame and acting talent instead of contemplating the tragedy they just escaped.

Sebring is problematically cast with Emile Hirsch in the role. In 2015, Hirsch allegedly choked a female film executive unconscious at Sundance Film Festival. This speaks to the larger theme of the movie of violent and repulsive men taking up most of the storyline, while the women are silent, objectified and sometimes both. The revelation that Booth allegedly killed his wife yet is the saviour of the movie by subsequently killing two more women (Susan Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkle of the Manson family, with an assist from Dalton’s flamethrower [yes, really] for Atkins) is pretty revolting. Could we expect anything less from a director who is accused of sexually harassing Rose McGowan, pressuring Uma Thurman to do a dangerous stunt that caused her permanent injury and defending the statutory rape committed by a character in his movie, Polanski? 

The final scene of Haunting reveals that Tate and her friends’ foiling of their murders was a way for the characters to gain closure, ownership of their fates and move into the spirit realm. This is undeniably hokey, as is the movie as a whole, but Haunting doesn’t objectify female characters and portrays them as the fully realised heroines of their own stories. Even though they ultimately don’t survive, Sharon Tate and Abigail Folger were people worthy of memorialisation, and Haunting does so thusly. For those reasons, it is the superior Sharon Tate film of 2019.

Elsewhere: [The Manson Family Blog] Sharon’s Premonition II.

[Vox] How the Manson Family Murders Changed Hollywood, Explained by Joan Didion.

[ABC News[ Quentin Tarantino Snaps at Reporter Over Question About Margot Robbie’s Role in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood.

[The Daily Beast] Emile Hirsch Brutally Assaulted a Female Film Executive. He’s Now Starring in the New Tarantino Film.

[The Guardian] Brave by Rose McGowan Review: Hollywood’s Avenging Warrior Speaks Out.

[ABC News] Quentin Tarantino Sorry Over Uma Thurman Stunt Crash, Faces Backlash Over 2003 Polanski Comments.

[Vanity Fair] Quentin Tarantino is Really Sorry for Defending Roman Polanski.

Hollywood Pregnancies—There’s Something in the Water.

 

You might remember a few years ago, in 2007, when it seemed like every celebrity was pregnant, and some surprisingly so. Nicole Richie with Harlow, Christina Aguilera with Max, Nicole Kidman with Sunday, Gwen Stefani with Zuma, Angelina with the twins, Jessica Alba with Honor, Jennifer Lopez with her twins… it was just never ending!

I was surprised back then to never read an article on the phenomenon. (Then again, I wasn’t as immersed in the fledgling blogosphere at that time and kept my celebrity trend reading to the weeklies and monthlies.) Now I finally get to write about it.

Opening up this week’s Who (and Famous, which came out today, asserting that Blake Lively’s pregnant. She probably just ate too much Thanksgiving turkey. Leave her alone!), a spate of celeb mums-to-be greeted me from its pages. Kourtney Kardashian, Jessica Simpson, Beyonce, Hilary Duff, Jennifer Garner, perhaps Kate Middleton. Now this is a high-profile list! Babies by Jessica, Beyonce and Kate have been long awaited, so expect to see a lot more of their bumps in the media. That’s not to mention how often we’ll see their offspring in the pages of the glossies after the births!

I love few things more than bump-watches and babies, so I’ll be keeping a keen eye on the growing stomachs of these celebs. Especially Beyonce, who, after appearing on Sunday Night a couple of months ago, sparked a faux-bump furor over her creased belly. Do we have another Katie Holmes-Suri saga on our hands?

Related: Beyonce: Countdown to Overexposure.

Images via Who, The Hollywood Gossip.

TV: Come Together Right Now… Over Gossip Girl—“Gaslit” Review.

 

Gossip Girl’s Thanksgiving episodes are always ones to remember.

Season one hosted the first instalment without a voiceover from Gossip Girl herself, Kristen Bell. And last year’s episode dealt with the fallout from Dan, Vanessa and Hilary Duff’s threesome and Lily’s whereabouts the past summer.

However, this year’s holiday chapter fell short of expectations, with it’s surrounding episodes being much juicier. Last week, the vixen Juliet drugged Serena and turned all her friends against her, while Juliet’s beef with the Manhattan socialite is finally revealed.

But “Gaslit” did serve two main purposes, both of which are very promising:

1. Vanessa comes undone and her involvement in Operation Takedown Serena comes out, forcing her out of the city. Ding dong, Vanessa’s dead!

and

2. Blair and Dan join forced to find out what Juliet really wants with Serena. Whilst the two have never been shy about their hatred for one another, as winter passes, perhaps a new-found “appreciation” for each other will blossom along with spring…

xoxo

Related: Let Them Eat Cake… And Wear Headbands.

Gossip Girl Proves There’s No Such Thing As Wonder Woman.

Sexual Healing: Gossip Girl Takes a Page Out of John Irving’s Book.

Pretty But Dumb: Serena’s Tertiary Education Predicament.

Surfing the Third Wave: Second Wave VS. Third Wave Feminism on Gossip Girl.

The Last Tango… For the Season. Gossip Girl Season 3 Final.