Film Review – Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood (2019)

Title – Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood (2019)

Director – Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained)

Cast – Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Timothy Olyphant, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, Al Pacino, Matt Perry

Plot – During the Golden Age of Hollywood in 1969, fading star Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) and his stuntman friend Cliff Booth (Pitt) struggle to remain relevant in the industry in the midst of the bustling business, the hippy uprising and upheavals of the Manson cult.

“It’s official old buddy, I’m a has-been”

Review by Eddie on 16/08/2019

Most, if not all of us know that beloved director Quentin Tarantino adores his cinema and the history behind it and if for some reason you didn’t know this, you will after watching Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.

Tarantino’s love letter and nostalgic look back on the bygone “golden era” of the industry that his dedicated his life to, this slowly paced and undeniably indulgent film may alienate some viewers chasing more of a hard plot, featuring less scenes of Brad Pitt picturesquely driving a vintage car around lovingly recreated sets, but for those that fall under Hollywood’s charismatic charms, Tarantino’s film will act as pure cinematic ecstasy.

Quite possibly Tarantino’s most easily accessible (even if its many throwbacks and wink wink moments may not hit with everyone) and definitely most sentimental film, Hollywood’s breezy plot line of Leonardo DiCaprio’s aging actor and alcoholic Rick Dalton coming to terms with his dwindling career prospects, taking place around his long-standing friendship with stunt double and best “only” friend Cliff Booth (played by a scene stealing Brad Pitt) and the Sharon Tate/hippie filled surrounds of his hometown, allows Tarantino to go all in on his love letter to a time gone by that ends up feeling like a dreamlike trip to the past, that’s carefully considered construction makes it come alive in the best way cinema can offer.

From greyhound buses in the background, radio ads taking place as our characters traverse the colourful locations, TV programs blurring from the insides of a rundown trailer situated at the back of a drive in movie theatre or the signs of the Hollywood strip being lit up for a night of entertainment and good times, Hollywood’s lived in and lovingly staged surroundings become a character unto themselves as Tarantino takes his cast and us as viewers on a journey through a production that clearly comes from the heart and soul of fan that we should be thankful to for inviting us along for the ride.

This sense of playfulness and care extends wonderfully to Tarantino’s main cast who have an absolute blast bringing the filmmakers renowned script work to life in fun and exciting ways.

While not Tarantino’s most quotable or laugh out loud funny pieces of scripted work, Hollywood’s deeply considered and even emotionally powerful work (Dalton’s discussion with a child actress or breakdown in his set trailer particular highlights) is wonderfully played out by his expert cast and while there’s gems to be found in cameos from the likes of Kurt Russell, Bruce Dern, Timothy Olyphant, Dakota Fanning and Al Pacino, its Tarantino’s key trio that further ensure Hollywood will go down as one of the year’s best and most memorable offerings.

Front and centre for most, the dream pairing of DiCaprio and Pitt plays out just as joyously as you’d expect with both actors bringing their A-game to this unique offering.

Some may bemoan the seemingly pointless scenes these two characters sometimes are involved in but should you just sit back and enjoy what these performers are bringing to the table, they quickly become two of Tarantino’s most memorable character creations with Booth in particular a genuine classic, with Pitt’s Oscar worthy turn as one seriously cool but also potentially bad guy stunt man a highlight of proceedings.

Tarantino with help from Margot Robbie also make sure that the film’s lovingly staged and whimsical depiction of the tragic Sharon Tate is a powerful component of the film and as we get an insight into her brief but memorable time in Hollywood, playing out around the lives of our two main characters, Tate is given wonderful and heartfelt time in the spotlight in this Tarantino affair.

It would be remiss also to not pay respects to what I would argue to be Tarantino’s best endgame yet and while not wanting to enter into spoiler filled territory, Hollywood’s final stanza is likely to draw shock, gasps and even belly laughs in what becomes a conclusion audience members won’t soon forget.

Final Say –

Far from a typical mass-audience crowd pleaser, Tarantino has here indulged his love for cinema and its players like never before and while this is likely to alienate just as many as it enraptures, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood is a stunning example of cinematic craft and imagination that is made all the more wonderful by its killer cast that are clearly (just like us willing participants) having the time of their lives.

4 ½ flamethrowers out of 5  

15 responses to “Film Review – Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood (2019)

  1. Thank you for another insightful and substantive review. The film may not be for everybody (but what film is?). It’s of course another offering in the process of looking back at 1969 from a fifty-year distance. The decade of the twentieth century that most consistently reaches out to us today is the ’60’s, and Once upon a Time in Hollywood reminds us of what the end was like, how events were leading to the excesses of the ’70’s. It’s a lovely tribute piece.

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  3. Great review! This movie is certainly well crafted and you can feel Tarantino’s love for cinema in each scene! I wrote a small review of the movie and I added a link to your post under my review, I hope you don’t mind!

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  5. Great review.

    Went and saw it today on the GC. I friggin loved it. DiCaprio at his finest, he was given so much meat with Rick and he chewed it up. I found myself laughing quite a bit (the funniest for me was the most over the top part at the end with THAT weapon). The script was great, the foot fetish QT has, not so great.

  6. As others have pointed out, if you set up a flamethrower in the first act, it better return in the third… Agreed that OUTH is probably Tarantino’s “most accessible” film, perhaps fitting since The H8teful 8 seemed to be one of his least.
    Would you say this is also Tarantino’s most heartfelt homage to *actors* in general? The man has always re-elevated aging “has-beens” like Rick Dalton in real-life through his great screenplays and acting-direction, but the overarching theme of this film — from Dalton to Booth to Tate — seems to be the value of acting as a profession.

    • Absolutely I would! I really loved his passion looking back on this time and found his characters totally accessible and likeable.
      Having seen it a second time it holds up really well to.

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