Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a comedy-drama film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. It is his 10th film and it stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Margaret Qualley, Timothy Olyphant, Austin Butler, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, Kurt Russell, and Al Pacino. It is set in 1969 Los Angeles where a fictional aging television actor, Rich Dalton (DiCaprio) and his stunt double and longtime friend, Cliff Booth (Pitt) adjust to growing older in Hollywood.
The Story/The Direction:
Dalton is at a career crossroads as his show was canceled and he is now a bad guy guest star on a random assortment of shows. His agent, Marvin Schwarzs (Pacino) wants him to work in Italy in the spaghetti western genre. But that is not what he wants. That is giving up to him. Booth is worse off because he was involved in a violent scandal that makes almost everyone hate him and not wants to work with him. He is Dalton’s driver, mechanic, hype man, or pretty much whatever Dalton needs him to be. He enjoys celebrity lifestyles but he does not want to be a celebrity. He is essentially the moral compass of the overall story and who the audience sees connect the numerous storylines over the one day that this film takes place in. He drops Dalton off at a tv show filming, drives off to fix Dalton’s tv antenna, then he drives around LA. Here he meets a young hitchhiking girl and he takes her home to Spahn Ranch where the Manson family lived for many years. Robbie plays Sharon Tate, a woman who in real life was murdered by members of the Manson family. You see her go about her day. She goes to the movies, hangs out with friends, goes to parties, etc…
Tarantino's direction is very good once again and he can capture the 1960s perfectly. One thing that is always admirable about his film is his passion for film. He loves making films and almost all of his films are great because of this. As with a lot of his films, he plays homage to gangster pictures, kung fu films and car chase movies and spaghetti westerns and he does a great job of it.
The Acting/The Characters
The acting is pretty good in this film. Both Pitt and DiCaprio are fantastic in their roles. There was something about Pitt's Booth that felt grounded even though he had a very iffy-backstory. DiCaprio can play pretty much any role well so it is not surprising that he does well here. His character is a great commentary on the aging of actors in Hollywood but also on the people who are known for one role because they did that so well. It can be really hard for an actor to break that mold that was built for them. Even more so, it's hard to remain relevant as the times change aside from aging. The rest of the cast is enjoyable enough for what they are given, which is not much. Robbie is barely given anything to do or to say for that matter. She may look similar to Sharon Tate but otherwise, that’s the most that audiences get from her character. She is given very little to do. Throughout the 161-minute runtime, she maybe had 16 minutes, at most. She was perhaps the most boring person in this movie. However, this film is not about Sharon Tate at all. It’s not really about Booth or Dalton, either. It’s really about LA in 1969. Tarantino captures this very well but gives the audience no real reason to care about any of his characters.
Tate is barely a character even though there are long periods where she appears silently on screen. We learn about her backstory from someone else telling the audience about her complicated relationships or at random from a voiceover from Russell, who also plays a stunt coordinator in the film. Why he is narrating? No idea. Aside from Dalton and Booth, this film has very little explanation who these other people are. This film gives little to no development to their characters. Who is this family living on this farm? If one knows who the Manson family was, they'll know but if they don't, this film won't tell them anything about them. We are telling a fictional story with fictional characters aside from the Manson family-related ones. Tarantino seems to be assuming that people should know who these people are before going into the film and honestly, he has never been about telling true stories about history like in Django Unchained and Inglourious Basterds. However, the difference between those films and this film is that those are about injustices becoming justices although violent ones. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood does not have this at all. Tarantino treated Bruce Lee more of a joke than one of the most influential people in history. Tarantino treated his “real” characters like Lee and Tate as pretty much nothing and only keeps them in the film to move the film along. Their acting is fine but the writing is not great.
The film feels overly long but is it a badly made film? No, Tarantino probably will never make one of those. It has a few great shots, solid performances, and a fun soundtrack but unfortunately, those pieces cannot save it. The climactic scene is very Tarantino and that was the most enjoyable part of the movie. The entire scene had a lot of action and blood. He gives more time to the film’s environment than it’s characters and that’s what makes this film feels very boring. The end may be controversial to some but due to non-development that occurred over the film, it is fairly forgettable. It is a film that is not even rewatchable or worth buying even though it had a lot of good pieces.
Rating: 3.0/5.0 bowties.
What did you all think of the film? Let me know in the comments section.
If you want to read my other reviews, click on my logo at the end of the review!