'Once Upon A Time In Hollywood' Review
It only took 7 months but Quentin Tarantino’s latest retro-filled drama Once Upon A Time In Hollywood proves that there can be a hugely successful film in 2019 that isn’t a movie revolving around superheroes. Although, the characters played by Hollywood greats Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt are very much put into the position of being stylized heroes in the nostalgic era of 60’s Hollywood as cinema was concluding it’s golden age.
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is set in 1969 Los Angeles and takes place over the course of six months. The film follows Leonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton, a television star struggling to make an impact as an actor and his stunt double Cliff Booth, played by Brad Pitt whose chillingly calm demeanor helps put Rick at ease when he is at his most distressed. Through Rick’s daily experiences on a Hollywood set combined with Cliff’s scenic views driving through Los Angeles, their stories interwove into the life of Sharon Tate, played by one of Hollywood’s biggest leading ladies today, Margot Robbie. The main plotline of the film is the many Rick Dalton wears as he tries to make it as an actor in Hollywood while we are slowly introduced to the Manson family cult that was responsbile for one of the most high profiled murders in Hollywood.
Do not walk into Once Upon A Time In Hollywood expecting the high octane gore that has been seen in previous Tarantino films. That is not the vital part of this movie. Instead, we are introduced to the final years of Hollywood’s golden age in a series of events that while not always relevant to one scene after another, somehow come together and work perfectly on the screen. Even without the abundance of blood and fighting, this film has Tarantino’s stamp all over it.
Damon Herriman plays Charles Manson, the leader of the Manson Family cult.
The quintessential story arc of multiple things happening at one time occurs throughout the film (much like Tarantino's 1994 film Pulp Fiction). The use of western influence combined with a throwback to martial arts cinema, references in past Tarantino films are once again brought to the screen in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, which brings in one of the best scenes in the film in which Brad Pitt’s stunt character Cliff Booth engages in a competitive brawl with martial arts movie star Bruce Lee.
Tarantino’s reimagining of real-life people and events creates a world that is both chilling and entertaining. The subject behind the reason for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is slowly introduced to us in tense moments throughout the film that lead us, the viewers to jump ahead in our minds. But don’t get too ahead of yourself because one of the many things Tarantino has become known for is not showing us the obvious. I don’t think there is a single director who could have made this film except Quentin Tarantino. Every main character has a spotlight put on them and with Tarantino’s brilliant direction, the performances become emotionally bigger as the film progresses. Like most Tarantino films, this movie runs almost 3 hours long and while I felt some scenes dragged on a little, perhaps I as a viewer have been spoiled by the heavy amount of action that is ongoing in Tarantino’s films. In fact, up until the conclusion of the film, most of the action we experience is hearing the directors shout “ACTION!”
Tarantino recreates Los Angeles as if time has stood still since 1969. The music of the era is so brilliantly infused into this film that it’s as if it is part of the dialogue.
As for the acting, Leonardo DiCaprio definitely chose to play Rick a certain way and there is a reason why Leo remains my favorite Actor of all time. He throws himself into the role displaying a multitude of emotions that encompass a phenomenal level of commitment and humor. This is Leonardo’s first feature film since his Academy Award winning performance in 2015’s The Revenant. In this film, we are led to believe that Rick Dalton is a talented actor but has been put into a box of a Hollywood cliché as he tries to fight against the stereotypical roles he is given without much success. However, there is one scene in particular in which Rick’s character gives a performance that is mostly improvised and after he is praised by the director and his child co-star who calls it the best acting she has ever seen in her whole life, we get a close up of Leonardo’s face as a wave of humble emotion falls over his character. He then looks up and utters the words, “Rick Fucking Dalton.”
Margot Robbie is perfection as Sharon Tate and while there isn’t a lot of dialogue from her, it’s all in the way she moves and that gentle stare she gives when standing outside of the theater, looking at the poster of the film that’s currently playing that she stars in. We instantly feel sympathy for Sharon as we know what horrible events lie in her future, but the way Margot Robbie plays Sharon is that of a sixties glamour girl who loves her life and is proud of the work she has done. Margot Robbie continues to blow me away on screen.
The standout performance in this film is Brad Pitt. As Rick Dalton’s stunt double, Cliff Both, Brad Pritt has the boldness of a 60s “man’s man” but doesn’t stray from the comedic elements to his character and what Cliff is all about. There is a laid-back charm to Cliff that is both charismatic and unfiltered. His interactions with the Manson family cult are some of the high points of the film. Cliff ultimately becomes somewhat of an anti-hero in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.
Because Tarantino is reinterpreting real life events while also sticking to a few factual points, we have no idea what is going to happen once Cliff encounters the Manson family but when he does…well, this review isn’t about giving away spoilers but what I will say is that chances are you will walk out this film knowing that Cliff is the heart of Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.
Along with the three central characters of the film, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, features a phenomenal cast that each give a performance that sticks out including Al Pacino, Bruce Dern, Kurt Russell, Michael Madsen, Timothy Olyphant, Dakota Fanning, Emile Hirsch and Luke Perry.
Luke Perry passed away from a stroke on March 4th, 2019. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is Perry's final feature film.
If you walk into the theater to see Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, do not expect anything like what Quentin Tarantino has delivered in the past. While Tarantino’s usual story arch is heavily present, while his exceptional gift for creating a visionary setting is prevalent throughout, and while his direction of the characters weighs heavy on their performances, this is a completely different style Quentin Tarantino has taken.
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is somewhat of a love letter from Quentin Tarantino as he takes us back to a very dark time in Hollywood’s golden era and creates his own version of the story that will have you leaving the theater and talking about for weeks to come. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is high up in the list of achievements from one of cinema's greatest Directors of all time.
MY SCORE: 9/10
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