Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Movie Review
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a film following two characters, Jake Cahill (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), and how they deal with their respective washed-up movie and stunt careers. Their stories are also intermingled with the famous story of Sharon Tate and the Manson murders. However Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is really a love letter to 1960’s filmmaking and feels like a representation of the culmination of that era.
Over the course of eight films, Quentin Tarantino has set extremely high standards for himself, which shows throughout the movie on both a creative and technical level. The movie is extremely polished; from fantastic cinematography and amazing shot composition to a great soundtrack that helps encapsulate that end of the 60’s vibe.
What is truly amazing about Once Upon a Time in Hollywood though, is the incredible set design created for the movie. Tarantino clearly has so much passion for his films and filmmaking in general. He went so far as to creating streets with 60’s stores, buildings, and replica cars for when characters are driving instead of green screening the backgrounds.. However, it was shots like these that happen quite frequently throughout the movie, that hurt the film by adding time that was seemingly purposelessness.
When walking into the movie, the most important thing to keep in mind is the runtime, which is a hefty 2 hours and 40 minutes. While I never felt bored at all while watching this movie, as Tarantino’s fantastic writing and directing always had the movie-going and kept it fresh, without the knowledge of the runtime beforehand I would imagine some people would get bored during the end of the second act and the beginning of the third. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s performances were impressive highlights of the film. Margot Robbie also did a great job as Sharon Tate even though she had a shockingly small amount of screen time compared to Pitt and DiCaprio.
DiCaprio especially stood out during the scenes in which he was recreating older movies, whether that was playing a cowboy in a western or a spy, in what was obviously a call back to Tarantino’s other film Inglourious Basterds, in Nazi Germany.
One part that threw me off, though, is that we see DiCaprio’s character film one of these movies in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, but the producers use a modern-day camera and mic to film, which is strange since they committed to the style in every other recreation scene. While this movie’s style is just as great as all of Tarantino’s other movies, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’s story structure is unlike any of his other movies or most movies in general. It doesn’t feel like one cohesive narrative, but rather several short films exploring recurring characters.
The tone of the movie, in general, was very patient, which was a nice change of pace compared to his other movies, such as Django Unchained or Kill Bill. This hurts the film somewhat since scenes that were supposed to be suspenseful tended to fizzle out rather than lead to a climactic moment. An example of this would be when Brad Pitt’s character visits Spahn Ranch and meets the Manson family. We get a very suspenseful scene as the music subtly grows louder as Cliff moves closer to George Spahn, his old friends’ room and the threat of what the Manson family could do looms over him and the audience until he finally opens the door and nothing happens. George just wakes up and we cut back to a well written but somewhat bland scene compared to what we could have gotten. The suspense just faded out without a climactic ending or a point to the suspense.
The last 15 minutes of the film is the only point where the suspense is earned and thus the last act of the film is not only the best part of this movie but it is one of the best and most fun scenes ever filmed. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a movie that delivers on everything it could have promised and shown us an interesting take on what could have been. The characters perfectly encompass the time period and having actors that bring these characters so much life only involves us in the story more. While it could have been trimmed a lot and there were some disappointing scenes, it is a polished and fantastic movie from beginning to end and should be considered as one of Tarantino’s best films.