This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Laura Valentina’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood shows the most nostalgic side of Quentin Tarantino and, for me, it worked phenomenally. I've been a huge fan of his since I was very young but, I never expected him to come up with such a soulful tribute to film and pop culture.
This is a very personal story in the sense that it's about a time and a place dear to Tarantino. It's a collection of vignettes of the characters' lives in Los Angeles with no direct connection at first. What unites these characters is their city and the industry they work in. This is evident in the very first part of the film, which was probably the most beautiful for me. These first scenes might come across as uneventful, but they're actually a touching tribute to Hollywood and filmmaking. Sharon Tate watching The Wrecking Crew with a thrilled audience, Rick Dalton trying his best to deliver a good performance (one of my favorite scenes in the entire film), the party with all the stars of the time, Rick realizing he lives next to the Polanskis. All of these scenes invite you to fall in love with this crazy and fascinating world, they want to make you a part of it. I found that the shots filmed in the backseat of cars, for example, really made me feel like I was there with the characters, driving around L.A.
However, what truly made me engage with the film aside from these scenes were the characters themselves. It wouldn't be the same without Rick and Cliff. Pitt and DiCaprio are at the top of their game and together, they make an unforgettable (comedic) pair. Both characters are incredible, but, personally, I just couldn't help sympathizing with Rick from the beginning. I loved his story. I thought the idea of him being an out-of-style western actor that wants to get his career back on track was quite original. The scene he shared with the little girl genuinely moved me. I also thought the ending was perfect for him. He went from feeling like a failure to being recognized by Sharon Tate (I like to think he got a part in a Polanski film after being invited to her house!)
This is a film that celebrates a Hollywood that is long gone now. It laments its parting as much as it laments that Sharon Tate had to be taken away from us in such a horrible way. Apart from being a signature Tarantino flick that succeeds at everything he's known for, this is also a sad yet hopeful love letter to this era of film. The scene in which California Dreaming plays gave me goosebumps because it's a gloomy reminder of what happened to Sharon and, in a way, a reminder that this Hollywood (with its good things and bad things) is no more.
There are so many details that make Once Upon a Time in Hollywood impressive. The outstanding recreation of Los Angeles in the 60's, the soundtrack, that gory twist that could've easily been a part of a giallo film, Margot Robbie's enchanting Sharon Tate. But, what truly makes it special is that it's driven by a sincere appreciation of the era, its stars and its art. Easily, the most heartfelt film in all of Tarantino's trajectory.