What happens to her in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood?
Robbie's Tate operates in parallel to the (mis)adventures of Cliff Booth and Rick Dalton, two Golden Age movie stars whose careers are waning in February 1969 when the film opens. In contrast, Tate's star is bright, and we see her in almost mundane situations. In the loveliest sequence of the whole film, Tate simply goes about her day. She picks up a hitchhiker, who she warmly says farewell to before heading off to buy a rare copy of Tess of the D'Urbervilles as a present for Polanski, who would later make a movie based on the book. On the way back to her car, she's drawn to a Westwood cinema playing her film with Dean Martin, The Wrecking Crew. After convincing the skeptical box office attendant that she's really in the movie, she's offered a free ticket. You can see her spirit lift as she watches the audience laugh at her bits and cheer when she kicks ass. (Tate reportedly did her own stunts at times, which must have tickled stunt aficionado Tarantino.) It's a tender portrait of someone becoming aware of her own talent and fame, framed in opposition to Rick, who is grasping at relevancy.
Tarantino doesn't have Robbie recreate Tate's scenes in the film, where she's both comic relief and straight man to Dean Martin's 007-type spoof Matt Helm. Instead, there's a beautiful interplay of acting. The Wrecking Crew itself is goofy and dated, but Tate's performance was lauded at the time and still deserves the same praise today. In a review, the New York Times wrote: "The only nice thing is Sharon Tate, a tall, really great-looking girl who, for most of the movie, wanders around wearing glasses, which, of course, means that no one, including Martin, who is supposedly in a state of constant excitement, notices that she is beautiful." When Once Upon a Time picks back up in August 1969, the day of the would-be murder, we find an uncomfortably pregnant Tate.
The quotidian quality of Tarantino's portrait of Tate is his intention. "I thought there was something kind of wonderful about this person who lived, who has been defined by the tragedy of her death," he said in an interview with Time. "Just the idea that she's driving around and doing errands, doing the kinds of things someone might do in Los Angeles. She's living her life, which is what, in reality, she didn't get a chance to do."