Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★★★

The so-advertised 9th film from Quentin Tarantino „Once Upon a Time in Hollywood“ was the point of many controversies, surrounding late actress Sharon Tate and Charles Manson murders, which this story is based upon. Ironically, this movie couldn‘t be further away from tragic, it‘s incredibly entertaining and enthusiastic. „Once Upon a Time in Hollywood“ showcases the director Tarantino always at the top of his game, delivering an insane amount of craft and detail to his work.

It‘s year 1969 in Hollywood. The film follows a TV actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo di Caprio), who feels that his acting career is coming to an end. He is accompanied by a laidback stuntman Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), who he‘s been working with for many years. While Dalton‘s career is on a slow nosedive, his next-door neighbour , a famous new actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) is enjoying her first steps to stardom.

When the first details started to come out, they were heavily focused on the fact that this film was set around tragic Manson murders. This feels very irrelevant after watching it: Charles Manson is basically a cameo here and the actual murders are important only in the outrageous last act that must be seen to be believed. Meanwhile, the whole “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is an incredibly glorious, sentimental, and fun celebration on the final days of Hollywood Golden Age. You have to appreciate the amount of work, put to recreate the LA in the 60s, where the streets are rich with background detail and period cars. The story is interjected with several TV shows, ads and movies of the 60s in all their glorious cheesiness. And what’s more, Tarantino shoots everything in film, which adds an older, but also warmer look to the movie. Then there’s lush cinematography, foot-tapping music, 60s celebrity cameos… It’s not every time when the film teleports you to a different time and place, but Tarantino successfully creates such a carefree world, that you are sad to leave once the titles roll.

Again, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is a film only Tarantino could make. His signature hallmarks are here: incredibly lengthy scenes that add nothing to the story, comedic dialogue, quirky characters and this time, a surprising amount of feet. It all adds up to a lengthy 161 minutes runtime, which pass by surprisingly fast, despite how little actually happens. Tarantino keeps the pacing fresh by making even the most static scenes engaging, whether his expertise with camera or relying upon charisma of the actors. He also intertwines the main story with lots of flashbacks that usually tell another story by themselves and it’s there that the film stumbles a bit, where a few plot points feel too scattered or disconnected. But again, this fades in comparison to how Tarantino handles the story, telling a comedic subplot, then exchanging it into genuine emotion and a few minutes later generating tension in another scene. It’s all obvious that he feels like doing whatever he wants and personally, I can’t put any complaints to that.

Finally, some of the best a-list actors bring some of the best career performances. Leonardo di Caprio and Brad Pitt are back with the blast, they have such perfect chemistry and their characters are ones of the most interesting in the Tarantinoverse. Leonardo nails his performance as a washed-up actor, bringing comedic chops an emotional depth to his nuanced character. Meanwhile Brad Pitt’s carefree attitude is contagious, it’s such a joy to watch him cruise the streets of LA and not be bothered with anything the city throws at him. And then there’s Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate – the subject of most controversies, which again, feel so irrelevant after watching the film. Though her character is secondary and doesn’t have as much screen time as you’d think, she is portrayed in such a positive and enthusiastic light throughout the whole film. Finally, many other famous actors show up for some entertaining cameos.

It’s hard to see whether this film will play well with general audience due to slow storytelling and the fact that you must be familiar with the tragic background surrounding it, otherwise the second half makes no sense. Aside from that “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is a true Tarantino creation in the best way possible, a stunning trip to 60s LA filled with period details and entertaining characters. It’s impossible to fully grasp this film just from one viewing, there’s too much going on in terms of wealthy storytelling, but either way, a film like this is a rare gem in a changing cinema industry.