Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★★½

Things I completely dug while watching Tarantino's latest:

- the production design being so immersive of the era. Very little looked computer-generated; most everything appeared set-dressed
- the performances by DiCaprio and Pitt are fantastic. The former has more to do and really sells his fading star's emotions, while the latter embodies machismo and swagger and is very likeable
- the relationship between Dalton and Booth is well fleshed out and feels real; the two bounce well off each other
- reading Dalton and Booth as aspects of Tarantino himself. Dalton might be a self-reflection of Tarantino's concern for becoming less relevant as he ages; Booth might be whom he sees himself being in Hollywood despite his age.
- the eye-catching cinematography. I don't think Tarantino has ever blocked his shots more impressively, with Robert Richardson's camera moving mesmerisingly around, through and, most notably, above the action.
- the soundtrack again features Tarantino's signature left-field choices and they're (almost to a song) amazing
- the way Tarantino constructs this all as a fairy tale - something strongly implied by the title but which becomes increasingly apparent the further the film progresses
- the trademark Tarantino tension in a couple of scenes, with the final moments releasing that tension very well.

Things I struggled with while watching the same:

- the pacing of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is languid at best and laborious at worst. The first two acts have scenes that offer little other than to spend time in this world which Tarantino has constructed. They are often fun but there is no narrative urgency or throughline to really justify them
- the decision to suddenly have Kurt Russell - a bit player in the film who demonstrates having no great insight into the stories - narrate one line of dialogue at the beginning of the film and then dump exposition to bridge the gap between the second and third acts out of nowhere
- having Sharon Tate be such a bit player compared to Dalton and Booth, and then when Margot Robbie is on screen, giving her little to do other than strut happily through scene after scene.

All in all, this somehow feels like the least Tarantino film yet made, but it is good to see him stretch his creative wings now he is out from under the yoke of a Weinstein led Miramax. It's not going to stand alongside his classics, but Tarantino still makes going to the cinema/theatre an experience and for that, he should be lauded.

3.5 Artists Staring into the Abyss for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Listen in for a far more detailed feature review dropping August 24th on The Countdown: Movie and TV Reviews podcast.

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