Adrian’s review published on Letterboxd:
Rick Dalton: 'Hey! You're a good friend, Cliff.'
Cliff Booth: 'I try.'
There have been dynamic duos in Quentin Tarantino's movies before. One may of course think of Jules Winnfield and Vincent Vega, the coolest gangster duo the world has ever seen. You may also think of Dr. Schulz and Django, an odd couple still having such a wonderful chemistry making you enjoy every second with them being on the screen in Django Unchained. Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth, however, is the most dynamic duo Tarantino has ever created, and never before have any of Tarantino's characters been fleshed out better.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a movie about a lot of stuff, and I will talk about it in a minute. First and foremost, however, it is a movie about friendship. A friendship between two men - Rick and Cliff. There is a scene near the end of the movie where the two of them are casually sitting on the couch and watching an episode of the 1965 television series FBI. The viewer has been going through all the ups and downs of these two characters in the preceding 150 minutes, and it is the most wonderful thing to just see them sitting there and watch them having a good time, having some beer, watching TV and getting drunk. Seldom before have I seen such a brilliant chemistry between two fictional characters.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is not only a movie about friendship, it is also a movie about Hollywood, respectively the Golden Age of Hollywood. It is not without reason that Tarantino called this movie his most personal one. Tarantino loves the 1960s, and with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, he was finally able to show the world how much he really loves this decade. I have never seen so much attention to the detail in any movie ever before. There are countless references to movies from the 1960s, and although I am no expert for this decade, I was able to detect some of them. Especially the Rick Dalton movie sequences in the movie are packed full of nostalgia, and they pay some great homage to directors like Sergio Leone, Sergio Corbucci or many others.
Not only is Once Upon a Time in Hollywood a movie about the Hollywood of the 1960s, it is also a movie about the 1960s in general. I have been talking about atmosphere in other reviews of mine. Forget about it. With this movie, Quentin Tarantino has redefined the word atmosphere. With this movie, I feel like being thrown back right into the 1960s. There are scenes where Cliff is simply driving around Los Angeles for a few minutes, and I could watch him doing that for hours. There are so many nods to the 1960s, and especially the streets, with all the original cars, buildings, movie posters and all those other little details, will make you feel like you are travelling back in time. The soundtrack of this movie also feels like Tarantino's most personal one, and it adds a lot to the atmosphere of this movie.
There had been a lot of talk about Tarantino tackling the murder of Sharon Tate by Charles Manson way before this movie was released. I do not want to give anything away of how Tarantino treats this topic, but I will tell you that he could not have done it any better. Especially the way Sharon Tate is potrayed in this movie is simply beautiful. She is so in love with life and with what she does as an actress, and it is simply a treat to watch here. There is a scene where she attends one of her own movies which shows how much passion she had for what she did. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is not only an ode to Hollywood in general, it is also an ode to Sharon Tate as an actress and especially as a person.
Speaking of actors and actresses, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood features the greatest ensemble cast in any Tarantino movie ever. Every single one of them seemed to have so much fun with this movie, and for me, it was great to see some of Tarantino's classic actors and actresses like Michael Madsen, Zoë Bell, Bruce Dern or Kurt Russell, however little their roles may have been. However, it was also great to see some unknown faces. Especially the guy who portrayed Bruce Lee, Mike Moh, astonished me.
There are still three people amongst this cast who managed to stand out. The first one is Margot Robbie. I can not imagine any actress who could have a done a better job portraying Sharon Tate than Margot Robbie. When I looked at her, I did not see Margot Robbie, I saw Sharon Tate, and that is the greatest thing one can say about a performance. The other two are of course Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio. A lot has been said about them, and many people have said whom of them they liked better in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. I can't, and I won't decide who I liked more. The chemistry between them is just magical, and they both seem to enjoy their roles so much that every scene with both of them on the screen is simply a joy to watch.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is without a doubt one of the greatest movies I have ever seen. I am admittedly following Tarantino as a disciple, but it also comes with a big burden. Watching a movie of his for the first time, my expectations could not be any higher. With Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Tarantino was able to smash my expectations. It is his most unusual movie, and therefore, for me, his most suprising one. There is no other movie in his filmography which has blown me away like this after having seen it for the first and the second time - with exception for Pulp Fiction. This is a movie which was made for the movies, it has to be seen at the movies, and I can not wait to experience it there again.