Movie Review: Once Upon a Time in...Hollywood

 

ONCE UPON A TIME IN…HOLLYWOOD REVIEW

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, & Margot Robbie

Directed By: Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill)

Rated: R

Runtime: 2 hours 41 minutes

Most everything is a loving homage to something in a Quentin Tarantino movie.His ninth feature is no exception.Even the movie’s title, Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood brings to mind the exceptional westerns from Italian filmmaker Sergio Leone.This movie has a deep appreciation of westerns, music, and old Hollywood.From the songs on the radio, to the background setting, to the fake commercials throughout the film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a movie for movie lovers.

The film takes place in Hollywood in 1969 and stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton, a fictional TV western star on the down slope of his career.His stunt double is Cliff Booth, played by Brad Pitt.Cliff doesn’t have much to these days as Rick’s roles are dwindling, so Cliff acts as an errand boy to Rick, and he’s happy to do it.Cliff doesn’t seem to have a care in the world.He’s easy going.Rick, on the other hand, is a diva.Obsessed with himself, and concerned that his best years are behind him.

He discovers that his new neighbors are none other than Sharon Tate and the hottest director in town, Roman Polansky.Rick sees this as a chance to find make some new friends, and maybe shine a light on his own career.What follows is a nearly three hour long slice of life comedy.Yes, a comedy.From Quentin Tarantino.I didn’t think he had it in him.

Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood uses what you know about history to create an unnerving tension throughout the movie.We know how this story ends, but how do these two stories intersect?That’s the dramatic hook.

Aside from that, everything else features very comedic storytelling to Rick getting his lines wrong on set, to Cliff fighting Bruce Lee in a studio backlot.The movie is very breezy for the most part.It’s a slice of life film which is code for “not a lot of plot”.You really just watch Hollywood over the course of three or four days in 1969.People come and go.The hippie movement is taking over the culture.Sharon Tate goes to the movies.Cliff checks out the Spahn Movie Ranch that houses The Manson Family.The movie does meander quite a bit, but I’ll tell you, I found myself lost in the lives of these characters and wanted more when the movie was over.

Quentin Tarantino does a great job of making it feel like Cliff and Rick are my friends.You’re one of their buddies and this is a hangout movie.You’re in the car with them.You’re on set with them.It’s all very friendly.The dialogue is classic Tarantino.It doesn’t have the teeth of the dialogue in ‘Reservoir Dogs’ or ‘Pulp Fiction’, but the vibe of those movies isn’t the same as this.

For the detractors of Tarantino who find him to be a problematic director for one reason or another, I’m pleased to report this movie features the most restraint the director has shown in his entire career.It is his least violent movie by far.This movie features the fewest curse words of any of his movies.There are no racial slurs.That said, its ending is OBVIOUSLY very violent.Sharon Tate is a character in this, remember?There’s still a lot of cursing, but definitely not to the level of Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs where seemingly every other word was the F word.It’s the most mature picture of Tarantino’s career.It’s almost a shame that the person synonymous with excess in film decided to show us this side of himself with his penultimate film.

Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood is the story of a man on the precipice of a changing culture who refuses to change along with it.A man whose time has passed him by.There’s very few eras in American History where the times changed and you knew they were changing right before your eyes.1969 was one of those times.

If you love old westerns, if you love old TV shows from the late sixties, there’s so many pop culture references to that time.And it handles it all with love and care.Some of the things Leo gets to do in this movie are incredible.I see why he took the role, his first since winning an Oscar four years ago in The Revenant.

The Academy Awards love a few things.Stars.And movies about movies.This film has both.So, I expect a slew of Oscar nominations coming. Chock full of terrific performances.A deep roster of talent.Tons of great cameos.Actors and pop culture staples make cameo appearances in this unique movie. Nominations coming in Best Picture, Best Director (probably), Best Screenplay (probably), Best Actor for Leo, and Best Supporting Actor for Brad.Maybe more.Certainly in the below the line categories.Both stars about as good as they’ve ever been.

I loved this movie. We’ll compare it to the other Tarantino films in the next segment, but I am so excited to watch it again.One of the best feelings in the world is to be excited for a movie’s release, you go and you see the movie, and it lives up to the lofty expectations.I was so excited after seeing the movie.I could barely sleep.Neither could my five month old.Solidarity son!

On a scale of “See It/Stream It/Skip It” – See It – This is what movie goers ask for.An original idea.This isn’t a sequel or a reboot.Go out and support it.

If you liked Inglourious Basterds, Kill Bill (particularly) Volume Two , or The Wrecking Crew you might enjoy Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood.

4.5 out of 5 stars for Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood.One of the best films this year.This serves as Quentin Tarantino’s love letter to Hollywood.

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