ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD – Film Review

Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood visits 1969 Los Angeles, where everything is changing, as television star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) make their way around an industry they hardly recognize anymore. The ninth film from the writer-director features a large ensemble cast and multiple storylines in a tribute to the final moments of Hollywood’s golden age.

Whenever a new film by Tarantino is released or is even just in the works, my interest is immediately peaked. While I do not love every single one of his pictures, I have always admired the fact that he is a filmmaker that takes so many risks with every film that he makes. His movies are so unconvential and it is surprising to even see movies like his being made today.

Out of all of his works, my favorite of his has to be either Django Unchained or Pulp Fiction – two masterpieces in cinema with extraordinarily exciting storylines and crazy fun action sequences mixed in throughout. His latest, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, immediately struck me as a different film under his belt the instant the trailer was released. It seemed significantly slower paced and a more character focused narrative, which is something to appreciate as well.

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Leonardo DiCaprio (left) as Rick Dalton and Brad Pitt (right) as Cliff Booth in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)

Gratefully, Hollywood is one of Tarantino’s greatest efforts he has put forth to date. While this is not as long as his other pictures such as The Hateful Eight, it is most certainly a long ride, with its running time clocking in at one hundred and sixty one minutes. A running time this long would put quite a bit of general audience members to sleep, but if you appreciate the art of filmmaking, this will not bother you, as it did not bother me. In fact, I felt like the film could have been even longer and I would not have cared because at the end of the day, every single frame present is unique and exciting.

For some, this movie will seem absolutely pointless and many will claim that nothing really happened until the third act. For me, the opposite is the case. Although at first, it may seem like not a whole lot is really going on storywise for a while, after a bit, you will begin to notice that the film is at heart a story about two men making films together that are finally realizing that their careers are going downhill and spend the last few years of their careers trying to make their keep.

One of the reasons why everything works so well here is because of the performances all across the board, but namely from Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt. The two are well known for being terrific actors, and they truly get their chance to prove this here and they most certainly show it. DiCaprio is absolutely hilarious in the film when he needs to be and he is also sympathetic whenever his character needs to be. The same can be said about Pitt’s Cliff Booth. Their chemistry onscreen is some of the best of the entire year, and it genuinely felt like these two characters have been friends their whole lives.

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Leonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)

It is additionally an emmaculately shot picture, with the director of photography being Robert Richardson, who previously worked with Tarantino on Kill Bill Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained, and the aforementioned Hateful Eight. Every single still frame of Richardson’s work here looks truly mesmerizing.

Hollywood is set in the year 1969 and so naturally, you would hope that the city of Los Angeles would look historically accurate and it gratefully does. Billboards/advertisements, vehicles, architecture, and even food and drinks are historically accurate and the crew that ensured that everything looked right deserves immense praise. There was one sequence here in which it actually felt like I was watching a film that was released in the 1960s.

When it comes down to it all, there is only one major issue with Tarantino’s latest cinematic outing – Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate. Her performance here is miraculous, but what is unfortunate however, is the fact that the film barely utilizes her at all. Robbie was at one point in time my favorite actress of all time, and so I was naturally excited to see how she would portray this character.

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Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)

Unfortunately, there is approximately five or so scenes with her in the film as a whole, and even the scenes that she is involved in, barely include dialogue, with some being completely silent. In the long run, it was completely pointless to include Tate in this film and to get Robbie to portray her. What is just as confusing is the fact that she is credited third on the official poster, right next to DiCaprio and Pitt, when there where other actors that were used significantly more than Tate.

Overall though, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is yet another home run for Quentin Tarantino due to its incredible performances, gorgeous cinematography, and its exciting story.

Overall Grade: A

MPAA Rating: Rated R for language throughout, some strong graphic violence, drug use, and sexual references

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Margaret Qualley, Timothy Olyphant, Julia Butters, Austin Butler, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, Mike Moh, Luke Perry, Damian Lewis, Al Pacino

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

Distributed by: Sony Pictures Releasing

Running Time: 161 minutes

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