Note: This is a spoiler-free Once Upon A Time In Hollywood movie review
Reservoir Dogs. Pulp Fiction. Inglourious Basterds. Django Unchained.
You know what to expect by now from Quentin Tarantino. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood delivers with all the glitz and glam.
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is a slow-burning beauty of a Quentin Tarantino film, coming with everything you expect from the filmmaker and crescendoing to an eccentric ending.
People will be saying that Once Upon A Time is Tarantino’s best work to date. That’s some high praise considering his resume. There is also a valid case to be made. Here’s why.
If you’re a Tarantino fan, you’ll simply love this film.
What the filmmaker does is essentially encompasses the best from his past movies and puts it all together in this story.
The unique storytelling we know in Pulp Fiction is on display during a scene with Bruce Lee. The long, one-shot scenes of dialogue that burst onto the scene in Reservoir Dogs reappears at multiple points, particularly in an early scene between Al Pacino and Leonardo DiCaprio. The cowboy shoot-em-up style of Django Unchained is depicted with DiCaprio’s character, Rick Dalton, acting his way through western TV and movies. The over-the-top, uniquely gory fight scenes throughout the Kill Bill series are familiar by the end of this film.
Tarantino has a specific style, and he’s the only one who can really make it work. Encompass that into a trio of tales, loosely based on true events, with a Hollywood flair and you’re onto something.
The more you think about Once Upon A Time In Hollywood after watching it, the more you’ll see how three stories come together in one giant culmination. It’s a film that sticks with you and will have people talking only the way this filmmaker can make people talk.
Tarantino’s ninth installment may very well be his best.
Stars Shine Brightest In Hollywood
It’s no mystery why Tarantino’s films attract giant casts. That said, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood may sport the three biggest stars in their prime ever headlining one of his movies.
Many people will start with Leo, but for my money, the performance of the movie belongs to Brad Pitt. Pitt and Tarantino are old friends by now, and you can tell the part of Cliff Booth is written for him.
Cliff Booth is a stunt man who has seen (and done) some shit. His talents are currently dormant and waiting to be released. Who better to play a man that knows he can whoop ass but plays it cool until he has to, than Brad Pitt?
Simply put Pitt looks like he’s playing himself on screen. His portrayal is part comedy, part suave, part badass, and all cool. The result is the strongest performance in a movie full of them.
Speaking of strong performances, Leonardo DiCaprio plays a struggling actor in Once Upon A Time, which may be his biggest career stretch to date.
DiCaprio once again shows range in his performance. He loses himself within a role in a way where you forget you’re watching an actor like no one else in Hollywood. There are few true movie stars left in the industry — enjoy this one.
There’s also a scene where Leo just shows off and reminds us how good of an actor he is. One of those scenes where you’re watching and in the middle you have an out of body experience just to say to yourself, “holy shit this is good acting”. It’s unfair, but it’s a joy to watch. That’s Leonardo DiCaprio at his finest.
He’s also a main cog in the great chemistry between the movie’s two main characters. As it happens Cliff Booth is more Rick Dalton’s errand boy than stunt man. That results in the two spending a lot of time (and scenes) together as unlikely best friends. The two never miss a beat, riffing and playing off each other with perfect timing.
It’s fun to watch two great individual actors work so well together on screen.
The storyline that adds a feigned truth to Once Upon A Time In Hollywood also adds intrigue. Margot Robbie‘s role as Sharon Tate is a focus, but certainly tertiary to Pitt and DiCaprio’s stories.
Once Upon A Time has gotten criticism for how Robbie is utilized in the film. That’s probably the fairest criticism of the movie because Robbie is a star and only in a few limited scenes. I would argue the scenes she’s in are a nice tribute to Tate, giving her recognition to this generation as the up-and-coming star she was before her life was cut short.
Additionally, Robbie has been quoted as saying she knew what the movie was when she read the script, and was fine with it. That attitude must have helped the star because she pops in her scenes. This is a masterclass in making the most of your opportunity on screen.
Should I Go See Once Upon A Time In Hollywood?
It’s safe to say Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is the best original film of the year so far. It’s fun, original, and written/directed/acted well in a year when you can count the number of movies that are all those things on one hand.
That said, it is quite a long film at 2 hours, 41 minutes. But everyone’s favorite movie of the year is 3 hours, 7 minutes, so maybe 2019 is the year of “the longer the better”. Also, the film is obviously very Quinten Tarantino. So if you’re not a fan of his this won’t be your cup of tea.
Now with THAT said, you will hear about this movie again when nominations come out in a few months. If you’re a movie fan that doesn’t want to miss out, go see Once Upon A Time In Hollywood ASAP.
(Featured Image courtesy of EPK)