Review: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood


Title: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Rating: R
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie
Runtime: 2 hrs 31 mins

What It Is: It’s 1969: Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) fears the end of his career as a famous actor is nigh as Hollywood continues to change around him. He and his notorious stunt double Cliff Booth (Pitt) continue about their lives and their friendship through big movies, new relationships, old pals, and an eventual encounter with Sharon Tate (Robbie).

What We Think: I was looking forward to this. In the past, I have been able to lend a Tarantino movie my attention and not frequently be disappointed by it. While he’s not my favorite filmmaker per se, he’s definitely one of the biggest and most historic filmmaking powerhouses since the ’90s. An artist who builds his work on sub-genres that have inspired him, he’s become a household namesake. Would I say this is a movie worth that title…?

I’m going to try to not to compare to his older works but judge this as a work on its own. A work that is, in short, a mixed bag. It’s the kind of movie that looks like a dessert but is the kind of dessert that has vegetables in it. Not even those super-healthy vegetables, but the vegetables that don’t really have much to them. Like celery. This movie is like a cake that happens to have a lot of celery in it, because the cook happens to really, really like celery.

That being said, there are tons of tells to a Tarantino movie. The good ones, and the bad ones. Unfortunately suffers from the bad ones: scenes upon scenes connected by a stringy plot and conceived out of what feels like a tangent. Characters interact and do a thing for ten or so minutes, maybe longer (ex: the Spahn Ranch scene), and then it ends. The film can be so incredibly boring, scenes dragging on without much suspense. The pacing can be so disappointingly flat. Not to say there’s nothing of value in the story—in fact, there are moments in each of the three characters’ plot threads that are undoubtedly profound; binding even. Had the film centralized these moments as the core of the story and cut out all the dry filler, it certainly would have been more enjoyable for me. This movie was simply far too long. I should have known better than to have bought a drink because I was dying in the theater. It wasn’t until after something entirely interesting and exciting in the film happened did I think it would break, and I could get up and pee. Next thing I know, everyone’s out of the theater. I was confused, but in all honesty, it wasn’t that much of a loss. I shrugged it off. While the ” twist” and climax were cool, it came way too late in its duration for me to really care like it wanted me to.

Don’t get me wrong—the cinematography is great, the production design/value is tops. Of course, it’s going to look good. The acting overall was nice to watch, people playing unforgettable characters, even though quite a few tend to be annoyingly one-note and grating. DiCaprio and Robbie, in particular, gave amazing performances, though Robbie was featured rather sparsely, unfortunately.

Our Grade: C, Maybe a C+, if I ever decided to see it again. I’m used to watching long movies, but I have a bone to pick with Tarantino and his urge to put characters in circumstances where we have to see them turn every drab little corner, whether situational or conversational. It’s a mark of an indulgent director, which could be acceptable if there was something at all to get out of it other than… “it’s a character study.” The characters are already brought to us whole, and by the end, relatively unchanged. There’s somehow a lack of character development; the majority of the story is merely the development of events. There was nothing to gain for me. But who knows–I know plenty of people who enjoyed it for what it was. If you really want to see this pretty, atmospheric, cinematic, drill uncomfortably pressed with Tarantino’s infamous foot fetish (briefly on a character meant to memorialize the legacy of an actress who was murdered while pregnant), then see it. I guess there’s nothing to lose but an hour or two of your time.

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