Stylish, funny, and slightly confusing…Tarantino’s 9th installment Once Upon A Time In Hollywood has arrived! A love letter to the hey-day of Hollywood, the film oozes glamour, and what it may lack in a solid plotline, it makes up for in a brilliant script. You may not leave the cinema ranking it in any top lists, but you will certainly enjoy yourself.
The movie had pretty much everything you should expect from a Tarantino movie. The styling and wardrobes were obviously impeccable, the casting was perfect, the framing was faultless, the lighting, cinematography, the acting…and the list goes on.
However, this movie felt a mile different to any of his others.
There is a romantic subtlety to this picture, of which we haven’t seen from Quentin before. Master of tension and explosive release; this film was a far cry from that. He stripped back the gory violence (although there is a fair bit) and put an emphasis on the emotions of the characters, giving each one a more personal approach.
“It was Quentin’s version of the recent trend of meta Hollywood films (e.g. the Coen Brother’s ‘Hail Ceaser!’), simultaneously acting as a homage to the old Hollywood era and picking apart its frivolities through blunt humour and excessive design and character” – C.Williams, movie writer and critic.
The script is brilliant, hilarious and full of instant quotable catchphrases, but you don’t get any 20 minute long monologues from a single actor directly into the camera; it’s a smoother and far more shared ride between the actors.
Maybe part of the reason for that is that practically everyone in the movie is Oscar nominated. The cast is just, well, obscene. Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Al Pacino, Damien Lewis, Dakota Fanning, Kurt Russell, Bruce Dern, Michael Madsen. We could go on, but we’d run out of space.
Honestly, it’s like a who’s-who’s of Hollywood celebrities, and perhaps that adds to the feeling of it all, like you’re watching Hollywood, both in 1969 and weirdly today aswell.
Whilst there really isn’t much of a distinctive plot, the story is loosely based around DiCaprio’s character, Rick Dalton, an ageing Hollywood star faced with the facts that he may be past his prime, trying to find himself within an industry he no longer recognises. Brad Pitt plays Cliff Booth, his stunt double, and the other lead, Margot Robbie, plays Sharon Tate, charting her way into the industry.
One criticism the film has recieved is that there appears to be no real storyline. Rather watching the lives of these three characters as they develop through Hollywood.
Without giving too much away, the sniff of a plotline comes right at the very end, hinted earlier in the film, where Tarantino reimagines the Tate murders of 1969 in the most Tarantino way possible, in an almost rushed attempt to tie the characters together. Until that moment, you felt as if you were watching a docuseries.
Whilst the storyline cannot be said to be up there with his best, the acting was marvellous. DiCaprio was solid throughout, and his ability to switch between all the characters he was playing was certainly impressive, with each character a nod to the Hollywood past that Tarantino adores so dearly.
Pitt, however, stole the show. Unusually playing the anti-hero, he instantly made Cliff Booth an iconic character, mixing brute force and violence with brilliant humour. For us, he was the best of the bunch. Margot Robbie was great in the scenes she had, but similarly with DiCaprio, she had to play within a real life character, but it must be noted that Sharon Tate’s sister said it was like meeting her again she was so accurate, so you’ve got to give that some credit.
Whilst Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth form one of the great movie buddy pairs through the picture, there is no great love story between Leo and Margot like the Wolf of Wall Street worshippers were wishing for. Their roads only cross right at the end, in a classically gratuitous Tarantino shoot-out.
“the film runs parallel to the real events of the Manson murders, threatening to ground it in reality, but ultimately in classic Quentin style, he completely sidesteps this and reminds us all we came to watch a Quentin Tarantino film”
And remind us he certainly does. Just like in Inglorious Bastards, he creates his own world within reality, ripping up any notion of following a sort of rule. The film is funny, it’s brash, it teases you with seriousness, then brings you straight back into the nonsensical world of Hollywood.
In total honesty, it is not our favourite Quentin film. But. It is a near three-hour long cinematic feast for the eyes, that will have you laughing, gawping and grimacing all in equal amounts.
It’s an all-star Hollywood dream team in a film about Hollywood, in Hollywood.