Once Upon a Time In Hollywood Movie Details
|Directed by||Quentin Tarantino|
|Written by||Quentin Tarantino|
|Narrated by||Kurt Russell|
|Edited by||Fred Raskin|
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Releasing|
|Box office||$363.8 million|
In preparation for his new release, earlier this month I finally watched the remaining two films by Quentin Tarantino which I had yet to see – ‘Reservoir Dogs’ and ‘Death Proof’. Having now seen all ten of the films he’s directed so far (don’t give me this nonsense about ‘Kill Bill’ being one film) I can do a ranking list; and will probably post that sometime next week.
Set in 1969, ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ is about a former TV star, Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), and his best friend/stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), trying to remain relevant in the fading golden era of Hollywood. As far as the plot goes that’s pretty much all there is. Instead of creating a structured narrative, Tarantino focuses most of the film’s 161 minutes running time on just hanging out with the characters.
For that reason, I’m going to divide the next part of my review by the 3 main actors – Brad, Leo, and Margot Robbie.
Brad Pitt is without a doubt the best thing about this movie. In my opinion, this was his best performance since 2011’s ‘Moneyball’, for which he received his third acting nomination from The Academy. In considering the character’s attitude and history, he’s kind of an asshole who should be avoided. But somehow to me, he comes across as a likable asshole. There’s just something about his demeanor that drew me in. In addition, I have to applaud him for his physic, which would be impressive on any man, let alone one that’s 55 years old. If I was a betting man (which I am) I’d put a few quid on Pitt receiving his fourth Oscar nomination.
Leonardo DiCaprio is probably the thing that let me down the most in this film. Don’t get me wrong, I think he was good; but nowhere near as good as he can be – and certainly paling in comparison to his abovementioned co-star. Part of this is on him. There’s even a scene where he gets totally out-acted by 10 year old actress (presumably a year or two younger when filming) Julie Butters, who plays a young actress filming a western with Rick Dalton. Part of the problem, however, is that large chunks of the film’s second act (where we spend a lot of time meandering with Leo) was genuinely boring; and blame for that has to be placed on Tarantino.
Margot Robbie plays Sharon Tate, the real-life actress who was infamously murdered by the Manson family. Back when word of this film first came out the speculation was that this was going to be yet another film about the murders. As it turns out Tate’s role in this film is actually quite limited. Robbie does get a reasonable amount of screen time, but her character gets very little to do or say of any real consequence. From my perspective, it seems as though Tarantino (who we all know struggles to write for actresses effectively) only has her in this movie as a distraction. Something pretty to look at while the real story he wants to tell is happening. Given how talented Robbie is as an actress is a shame that he didn’t give her more to do.
One thing that Tarantino fanboys always discuss when praising their hero is his unique style. The thing is, for most of his movies the technical aspects are usually superb – and this is no exception. The cinematography (Robert Richardson), production design (Barbera Ling), costumes (Arianne Phillips) and soundtrack (Holly Adams) are all incredible. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if some of those names appear during awards season.
Being a Tarantino movie, of course, there was going to be some sort of controversy. There are a couple of scenes that have and will divide audiences. One scene involves the legendary Bruce Lee, where he is made to look arrogant, and not as tough as many people believe him to be. There have been stories about the Lee family’s negative reaction to that scene, which is largely justified. To some extent, he is simply used for comic effect. Personally I’ve never been a huge Bruce Lee fan, so I found the scene really funny.
The other scene I won’t go into much detail about for spoiler reasons, but it comes towards the end of the film. It’s violent with elements of dark humor – not something that will surprise Tarantino fans. Given the nature of the true-life events, I suspect there are going to be some people who find this scene somewhat distasteful. I actually really enjoyed it though and even laughed a few times. If you’ve yet to see the film that may sound like a sick thing to say, but hopefully you’ll understand when you watch it.
‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ is not one of Tarantino’s finest works. At times this film could be seen as self-indulgent and aimless. It’s also way too long. That said, I can easily see this film being a major contender, in numerous categories, come awards season. Pitt, in particular, has to feel as though he has a strong chance of picking up his first acting Oscar. I don’t know if this is a film I’d necessarily look forward to seeing again, but as a one-off viewing, I would definitely recommend giving it a watch.