You can tell someone is a master of their craft, when they are able to get away with doing whatever the hell they want, and not only that, but it working. In Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino does whatever the hell he wants, as if we’d expect anything less, and he’s a master of his craft. Bring on the feet shots!!!
Travel back in time to 1960s Hollywood, where Roman Polanski is the hottest name on the director’s chair, and Steve McQueen reaches bad boy stardom. Fading cowboy-actor Rick Dalton looks to save his career, while his stuntman/driver/repairman Cliff Booth, well, carries his load. And did I forget to mention Dalton just so happens to be neighbors with Sharon Tate?
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is Tarantino’s ninth film and is the work of a director brimming with experience and a passion for filmmaking; a cinematic feast, there is so much to devour I don’t even know where to start. I could begin with how the film is impeccably shot, or how the set design recreates ‘60s Hollywood down to the most minute detail. And then I can drool over the film’s glorious dialogue and the award-worthy talent of Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt. Don’t let me forget the nuance and indulgence of the humor or abstract style of story-telling. Maybe I’ll just leave a link to the rocking and grooving soundtrack https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDisKgcnAC4Tn2kjbXBPiXDu5lVCffkLr. Honestly, I’ll just save you the time and sum up the film in two words: it’s great. Tarantino had a vision and he made it happen, an ode to cinema indeed.
But don’t let my high praise fool you, this film is not flawless nor Tarantino’s best (either Pulp Fiction or Inglourious Basterds would be my choice). The plot isn’t the most cohesive, and could be characterized as the ultimate and longest exposition to a spectacular climax. Most of the film is spent developing DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters, Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth, occasionally digressing to something relevant to the Manson murders; Charles Manson himself is more of an Easter egg than a key plot driver, and those seeking a deep dive into the infamous Manson murders will probably be let down. Sharon Tate also suffers from this ploy of being in the film mainly to connect it to Manson and not much else, Margot Robbie serving as more of a pretty face than anything else (at least half of her screen time is spent dancing). And while I appreciate Tarantino’s cinematic genius, some of the film’s 159-minute runtime could’ve been trimmed I’m sure.
Back to the positive stuff, the ending deserves a paragraph of its own. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a restrained film for Tarantino in terms of violence, but in the final sequence the entire film is building up to, Tarantino unleashes hell. The last thirty minutes are worth the price of admission alone, and I can’t remember the last time a film paid off so much. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood effectively utilizes its historical context to create tension, as we know what the Manson family is capable of and ultimately did. There are two scenes that come to mind, one of them being the ending, that will get you on the edge of your seat as we watch characters act oblivious to real danger.
Once upon a time in Hollywood, people made original films…oh wait, that’s no fairytale, they still do as long as Tarantino is alive. I might need to see this one again. 9/10