Quentin Tarantino loves leaving open-ended conversations, both in his films and outside of them. What’s in the briefcase in Pulp Fiction? Is Kill Bill really one movie, or two? His latest, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, also leaves a dangling plot thread that several people have been pulling on, and in a recent interview, co-star Brad Pitt admits that he knows that answer.
In the film, Pitt plays perennial stunt man Cliff Booth, a knock-around film industry veteran who currently “carries the load” for fading character actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio). Booth’s not welcome on the set of every movie, primarily because there’s a nasty rumor about him that he might have killed his wife. Asked by the L.A. Times if Brad Pitt knows the answer to the mystery, the elusive star confessed:
That, I will never tell.
With Cliff Booth, however, the answer to the mystery has prevented several audience members from fully embracing his character. Did he actually murder his wife that day on the boat? Tarantino takes the flashback scene right up to the moment where a murder was possible. But he stops short of revealing whether or not Cliff’s a cold-blooded killer, or just a guy whose reputation has been dogged by a nasty rumor.
Of course, Brad Pitt being the outstanding character actor that he is, he adores the ambiguity of Cliff’s backstory, preferring to exist in the grey areas that avoid giving an audience a simple, regurgitated answer. Pitt did tell the L.A. Times that he worked out the answer of Cliff’s guilt so that he could construct the character properly, but he has no intention of sharing what he came up with. When told that the mystery leaves a black cloud over Cliff, Pitt says:
Precisely. So why spoil that?
That’s the right attitude. Not every plot point needs to be crystal clear, and the uncertain makes both Cliff Booth and the entirety of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood more intriguing. We want to root for Booth, but question our own motives in light of the uncertainty. It leads to fascinating discussion and debate.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood continues to perform well at the box office, earning some repeat business as it pushes its domestic cume to $116 million. It has plenty more global markets in which it needs to open, and hopefully a lengthy Oscar campaign in which to engage. Where Pitt can continue to dodge this question from reporters far and wide.