I saw Once Upon a Time in Hollywood yesterday in cinema and as a fan of Quentin Tarantino I was expecting certain Tarantino aspects to appear in the film and it mostly didn’t disappoint. However was it good though?
I had no idea what Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was going to be about and I haven’t watched Quentin Tarantino last four films so the film could have been about anything. All I knew going in was that it was about Hollywood in the 1960s, and there was some controversy involving Margot Robbie’s character.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood weaves a few separate stories into one modern fairy tale tribute to Hollywood’s golden age. The film takes place in Los Angeles in 1969, where an ageing television actor played by Leonardo DiCaprio (Rick Dalton) and his stunt double and longtime friend Brad Pitt (Cliff Booth) are trying to find their way in a changing Hollywood film industry.
The film has a wide cast of actors from Al Pachino to Damian Lewis and most of their performances are good. They mostly only say a few lines or appear momentary in the film but they are welcomed all the same. As expected Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio take up most of the screen time and they perform well together. The moments with Dalton and Booth are the best parts of the film. I would say I like Booth more than Dalton for the simple fact he’s scenes were more interesting and performed better. Leonardo DiCaprio did an admirable job playing a fading Hollywood star who suffers from bipolar disorder, and a stutter but wasn’t given enough time to expand on these personal character traits.
You never really feel invested in the character of Rick Dalton, but maybe that is the point? Regardless not enough time is spent with him being himself as most of the time he’s acting as someone else which made me not care about him. I also didn’t really care if he failed or succeeded in Hollywood.
You feel sorrier and sympathetic for Booth who has stuck with Dalton as a matter of loyalty, friendship and perhaps to protect himself from being alone. Maybe if the acting roles were reversed I would care more about Rick Dalton.
Margot Robbie is all over the posters and advertising material but I don’t see why her appearance in the film was played up so much. She plays Sharon Tate, an important character to the story but you hardly see her in the film and when you do she’s acting as she has come from another planet. Her acting is cringe-worthy and doesn’t feel natural at all. If she was supposed to come off as a dislikeable character then Tarantino has succeeded.
One thing I noticed a lot was that Tarantino has a thing for women’s bums in this film. There is a scene where one a Manson hippy called Pussycat (Margaret Qualley) is talking to Booth through the car window and the camera kept panning down around her ass. Sure it’s pretty looking at but she is supposed to be a child and it’s taking up half the screen. Even Booth rejects her suggestion of a sexual advances later on as he knows she is underage. A similar thing happens to Sharon Tate and it’s uncomfortable at best.
About half of the film you will be watching actors film a pilot for a new show called the “Lancer”. While it has some interesting moments like when Dalton has a breakdown in he’s trailer which is probably the only character development for Dalton. It also involves a fight scene between Bruce Lee and Cliff Booth. While it’s probably embellished a bit for the film (if it even happened). It makes Lee seem like a complete utter nightmare to work with. He doesn’t come off good in the film and I am not surprised he’s family aren’t happy about it. The discussion around whether Booth could have taken him on in a fight doesn’t seem unbelievable as Bruce Lee wasn’t invincible after all. A lot of people will feel that these Lancer film sections only drag down the overall movie.
The Lancer sections of the film are probably the worst part of the film as it’s another Western in a sea of Westerns. Later on, he goes to Italy and films some more films like a ripoff of James Bond that would have been more interesting to see filmed but these Italian sections are only covered in a few scenes. It is a shame as these are probably the most pivotal points for him and his career in the film. This decision makes the whole film just feel unbalanced.
I am not sure how versed you are in the Manson Murders, and the Manson family but those are quite important aspects of this film. If you have not idea about then the last third of the film will seem like complete utter gibberish. This is made even worse as the film twists these murders around so the perpetrators are the ones who are killed instead.
The scene where Booth visits the Spahn Movie Ranch where Charles Manson and his followers lived is probably the most artistically interesting part of the film as one minute you think you are watching a cheesy road movie and then it’s like a horror film, a cliche one but an interesting one. These scenes show Brad Pitt carrying the film from the scruff of its next, almost like he wants something interesting to happen. Most sane people would have quickly left after entering a compound that is some weird hippie sex cult but not Booth.
The ending is controversial as it doesn’t fit the rest of the film. Throughout the film, not much happens and it is quite slow then the end hits you like a train to the face as if they ran out of time. It almost seems to be placed there to justify it’s 18 adult rating as it could have been easily a PG film up to that point. I didn’t mind the ending and something was satisfying about having your expectations switched as Tarantino has done in this. I thought, “This is it, they are all dead now” like what happened in real life but instead its the opposite. It is comically over the top almost like you are watching a zombie film which again was a risky thing to do but he managed to pull it off.
Whether you liked the film, I don’t think you can argue that the setting is nailed down perfectly from the clothes, music, scenery and everything in between. You feel like you are in the late 1960s and first-hand experiencing the change from the old Hollywood to the new personally yourself.
I would say Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a good film but not a great film. It is a film that could be watched more than once and each time you would appreciate it more and notice new references to other films and other pop culture symbols. Maybe it could have been shorter but if anything if it been longer, I would have still enjoyed swimming in the atmosphere of the film. However, if the filming scenes were reduced or more varied then it would have been a better overall picture.
In the future Once Upon a Time in Hollywood may not be as fondly remembered as Pulp fiction or Reservoir Dogs but still has the opportunity to be on the hand of one of Tarantino’s top five films.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Official Trailer.