I usually like to wait a day after viewing before I write a review on a film, but in instances where I get an overwhelming feeling that I’ve settled on a theme, I go right in.
Let me start off by saying that I am a fan of Quentin Tarantino, though I have to always double-check to make sure I’m spelling his name right. Off the top of the head I know he’s a film buff who loves Spaghetti Westerns. I also remember reading somewhere that he worked at a video store when he was younger and may have watched every VHS in the place. What’s a VHS you ask? Long story. To finish off this quick bio, If I had to choose I’d say gruesome violence and witty dialogue are his two most recognizable trademarks.
Before I go off into an analysis of the director let me take us back to the ‘film buff’ thing. This guy is a student of film history. In case you’re wondering why I’m spending so much time on Mr. Tarantino it’s because I feel you’ll have to know about him in order to fully digest this film.
The film starts off with a creative screen format which now makes even more sense to me then it did when I first saw it. I’m not going to spend much time on the story here because the truth is I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to do some research to fully understand it.
The three lead actors (Brad Pitt, Leonardo Dicaprio, and Margot Robbie) all do a great job here, but Leo might be looking at an Oscar nod if the academy is paying attention.
Without providing any spoilers I can tell you that this movie is based on some real-life murders that happened in Hollywood. You will know of a few names, but some I’m going to look up after I write this. There are a lot of obvious and not so obvious Hollywood “easter eggs” in this film and that’s sort of the ‘secret sauce’ that brings all the ingredients together.
I didn’t look up Rick Dalton, Cliff Booth or whomever they may be modeled after before writing this for good reason. I didn’t want the truth to start working its way into this review. I didn’t want real events or someone else’s opinion to alter my original thoughts. As for Sharon Tate, I knew a little about her story coming in and although I’m still trying to figure out where she fits in (besides the obvious) I can tell you that you have to pay close attention to her scenes.
Right now let’s take a moment to put things in perspective. This is Tarantino’s 9th film and from what I’ve heard he says he’s only making 10. Do you think he’s going to just throw crap at the wall and see if it sticks? In my opinion, this is a parody of Hollywood, almost a mockumentary of sorts. But, it can’t solely be defined as such. It’s actually much more.
Just like all Tarantino films, there are dull moments here, but staying true to form those memorable scenes make the 2h 41m run time worth it. For instance, remember I said that Leo might be due an Academy Award for this role? There are three scenes to look for.
In one scene Leo’s Rick Dalton is scolding himself after flubbing lines. In another he gives us a surreal account of how actors juggle their own emotions with their lines while staying in character. In the third, he displays the most believable acting I think I’ve ever seen on film short of Denzel Washington In Glory. If you think I’m overreacting with the Academy Award talk, check out what Christoph Waltz did with a Tarantino role. TWICE.
When the credits rolled I didn’t know what to think, but after marinating in the bloody mary and margarita juices for awhile I get it. This film is a story about what happens behind the scenes in Tinsel Town. Just stop and analyze the title. ‘Once Upon A Time’ In Hollywood. The parallels between fact and fiction in movies are on display here. But, that’s just my opinion.
For now, I’m going to give this a slightly higher rating than I want to based on the fact that I know the filmmaker’s intent is to make you research film and American history to get the full story. That’s pretty ballsy and creative if you ask me. I still don’t know what the cigarette was about.
Yes, there were boring moments but I have the funny feeling those moments were only boring to me because I don’t know the backstory behind them. In his 9th of a 10 film opus, Tarantino has constructed a film for film lovers, something that would have been risky at the start of his career. It might sound far-fetched but I think Once Upon A Time In Hollywood could serve as inspiration.
Struggling actors will be inspired by Rick Dalton, Sharon Tate, and Trudi’s story. Stuntmen will be inspired by Cliff Booth’s story. Aspiring Directors will be inspired by Tarintino’s…story. Once upon a time in Hollywood, the magic happened behind the screen.
My rating for Once Upon a Time In Hollywood is 8/10 for the reasons listed above.