Movie Review Monday: Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film hit theaters this weekend with an impressive $40 million opening. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood was written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. It follows an actor named Rick Dalton and his stuntman, Cliff Booth, as they navigate the world of Hollywood in the late 1960’s. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton and co-stars Brad Pitt as his stuntman and best friend. The film contains an all star cast in Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Margaret Qualley, Timothy Olyphant, Austin Butler, Dakota Fanning, Al Pacino, and Kurt Russell.
The film begins in February of 1969 with a rundown of Rick Dalton’s time on the television show, Bounty Law. This also involves an introduction to Cliff Booth, who has been Rick’s stuntman for some time on the show. Rick has since found his career faltering, and Cliff is now employed by Rick since his stuntman career has also been lacking due to suspicions about him killing his wife. Rick’s agent tries to convince him to make a spaghetti western in Italy, but Rick despises the idea. In the meantime, Sharon Tate and her husband, Roman Polanski, have moved into the house next door to Rick, and Rick dreams of befriending the couple and hopefully bolstering his career. In the midst of Rick and Cliff navigating this golden age of Hollywood, an unsettling movement is growing, which Cliff witnesses first hand at Spahn Ranch.
Unsurprisingly, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood follows the typical attributes of a Tarantino film. The film features some nonlinear story beats, and of course, there are some incredibly violent sequences. It also contains some satirical subject matter, and it contains Tarantino’s particular brand of humor. This representation of Hollywood’s golden age is fantastical in nature but beautifully crafted. It captures the popularity of Westerns in that time period, and every detail of this version of Hollywood is expertly crafted from vehicles and music to costumes and cinematography. Despite the alluring world that Tarantino crafts, the film moves at an excruciatingly slow pace. That pace is establishing the world and the personal struggles of Rick and Cliff, and thankfully, the third act sees an improvement in pace.
The true highlight of the film is the characterization of Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth. DiCaprio brings the ridiculous and dramatic character of Rick to life, and Rick’s personal journey is one that audiences can find easily identifiable. He is a man struggling with his career and the fear that his best days are behind him, and Cliff also finds himself in a similar position. It is their friendship that redeems them both, and they make for a hilarious pair. In fact, Brad Pitt is the standout performance from the film, perfectly capturing the physicality of the role in addition to the comedic high points. While the supporting cast contains a lot of talented actors, most of them are barely utilized and only appear in one or two scenes.
As a whole, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is a love letter to 1960’s Hollywood in the midst of a story about two friends in that industry. It includes appearances by the Manson family, but it never lets them take the spotlight in the midst of this story. It is an imaginative alternate version of 1969, and without a doubt, the third act contains the best moments of the film. At the end of the day, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is an entertaining yet slow adventure that Tarantino fans are sure to enjoy.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.