Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is Quentin Tarantino’s 9th film (I guess Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Kill Bill Vol. 2 are unanimously considered one movie) and its similar to Inglorious Basterds in the way that its historical, but most of the key characters and events are fiction.
I drove an hour to my local theater last night, because I was surprised to find that the movie was going to be leaving after one final showing last night. I was surprised to see that. It was only in theaters for like 3 weeks. Man, I was so glad I caught this because its one of my favorite movies of the year.
I’m not going to say that Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is the best Tarantino movie ever, but I feel like it’ll be the movie from him that I find the most watchable in the future. I found this to be such an easy watch, even with an almost 3 hour runtime. There are plenty of moments and scenes that could’ve been cut down, but I was just as happy that the movie took its time and built the characters.
Really at the heart of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood it honestly sort of feels like a bro movie. The central characters of the movie are a quickly fading actor named Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double/caregiver/friend Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), both characters are fictional. The film is set in 1969. Rick made a name for himself as a cowboy on a TV series called Bounty Law, but when he left the show in favor of a movie career that came and went quite quickly now he finds himself “flat on his ass.” Booth is a loyal friend, and pretty much an indestructible badass, who seems to be more than willing to cater to his friend’s every need. To put salt in the wound Dalton has got himself some new neighbors: actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and her director husband Roman Polanski.
For as perfect as the casting of Robbie as Sharon Tate is I was surprised by how limited her role in the movie is. I’ve seen that the film has been criticized for that reason. It didn’t really bother me that she hardly had much dialogue, because really at the end of it all she feels like a supporting player in Leo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s movie.
One of the things that really surprised me was how funny DiCaprio and Pitt are. They’re especially funny in the final few moments. Its a joy to watch these two guys play off of each other. Both are two of the last movie stars of their kind, from an era that seems to be phasing out. Both seem well suited for an era that is considered the “Golden Age” of Hollywood, because they still embody some of the qualities of the stars of the that time. Both are easily likeable, especially Pitt, who just seems like genuinely good dude (with a bit of a rough side) through the whole movie. There is a large ensemble cast outside of the main trio of Pitt, Robbie and DiCaprio. Some of them are stars that have worked with Tarantino on several occasions like Kurt Russell and Michael Madsen. There didn’t really seem to be cameos like you would maybe expect in a movie like this. Most of the people who show up are doing top notch work as well.
Tarantino is a director who really wears his love for film on his sleeve and he really embraces some nostalgia here. Even though the movie is mostly fictional his attention to detail is outstanding. The few real people he resurrects for the movie are very well done (although I hear Bruce Lee’s family isn’t very happy with him right now). Damian Lewis from Homeland makes a surprisingly good Steve McQueen for a couple of scenes. There are some cool little Easter Eggs that will only enhance your enjoyment of the movie if you’re a film fan. Plus, he shoots Hollywood so beautifully. If you know Los Angeles I’m sure you’ll like this that much more. Many critics have called it his love letter to Hollywood and I think that’s more than fair.
The script really takes its time weaving the storylines together. With Tarantino’s history of playing with history I had no idea what to expect going into the ending and I was floored by how awesome it was. You won’t see it coming.
I don’t want to dig too much deeper into this movie. If you’re fortunate enough to catch it in your town I’d love to hear what you think about it. I think its one of Tarantino’s most mature movies and one of the most easy to watch of his films. Its probably going to land high on my favorites for this year.
Have you seen Once Upon a Time in Hollywood?