This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
MrWfilms’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
When this picture first came out a lot of reviews all said the same shit, that this was a good movie but not Tarantino’s best movie. Maybe it’s just me because I think every new Tarantino picture is his best, but fuck the reviews, I think this might be his best picture. This feels like the picture he was born to make.
I’ve rewatched this for maybe the 8th time now, 5 of those times were in the theater, 3 of those theater experiences in 35mm, and every time the picture flies by faster and faster. I rewatched this because the novelization just came out and I burned through that, so I wanted to go back and see when watching this if I gained a new perspective on the story. Tarantino has been known to write extensive backgrounds for his characters that never make it into the actual picture, it’s only ever implied, but just knowing that Tarantino knows everything about his characters was enough for me to know I was in good hands. But actually learning a little about some of his character’s mysterious pasts made watching “Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood” all the better.
I know all this shit about Cliff Booth now that was only ever implied. If Brad Pitt wasn’t playing him he’d be a straight up psycho. All the fucking people he murdered, and not just his wife. He might be a contender for the best Tarantino character, but at a minimum is the best character in the picture. Brad Pitt deserves that fucking oscar, even though the oscars don’t mean fucking shit anymore, if they ever did. Brad Pitt knew exactly what do with this role, just play it cool and relaxed, and everything will fall in line on its own. After I saw the picture with my dad the first thing he said to me was, “Brad Pitt was a badass in that movie.”
This might also be Leonardo DiCaprio’s best acting. It’s so fucking funny watching what Tarantino made DiCaprio as Rick Dalton, where he’s just drunk and crying all the fucking time. I laugh every time when he runs outside in the middle of the night in his bathrobe, carrying a pitcher of margaritas, yelling at those hippie assholes. But he also pulls off something I think not a lot of actors can do, where he has to act while acting. You can see that it’s Rick Dalton trying to play Caleb Decoteau, and not just DiCaprio going straight into playing Decoteau. It also just funny when he fucks up his line and then on his second try he really over acts it.
I think Tarantino knew he had to make a buddy picture after “Django Unchained” when the buddy aspect of Django and Dr. Schultz was the thing everyone liked the most. The picture is very accurate to what it’s like to have a best friend, when you got your no. 2 like what Cliff Booth is to Rick Dalton, they’re the only ones that can tell you like it is without you flipping shit. And that moment at the end where they call back to the beginning is just fucking great.
“Cliff, you’re a good friend.”
Another thing that people have said to me before was that they didn’t understand the point of Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate in the picture. And at first I wasn’t really sure what to make of it, but I think I get it now. I think the idea is just to let Sharon Tate live her life since that was the thing taken from her. We don’t need a bullshit story to shove her into. It’s so nice just watch this innocent person go to the movies just to listen to the audience for the gratification of whether they like her in the movie. I don’t think anyone other than Margot Robbie could have played Sharon Tate, with the way she’s so nice to everyone, like when that movie theater ticket girl says something she doesn’t know sounds incredibly rude, but Sharon doesn’t want her to feel bad so she doesn’t make anything out of it. I think I would have liked to have seen more Sharon Tate scenes, because you never get to meet people this wonderful in real life. I love the way she says “hooray” at the end when she lets Rick Dalton into her house. Her just living her life is way better than any number of lines Tarantino could have written for her.
In fact I like that there’s no real driving story at all. It’s a day in the life for the most part. Quentin Tarantino called “Jackie Brown” a hangout movie, but there was more of a plot in that than in this. I guess this is his retro hangout picture. The characters are strong enough to work on their own to where their day to day lives are more interesting than any other kind of contrived plot. I also like that Tarantino kind of was in a situation with this to where he got as close as he could to working with the actors he’s always wanted to work with but that are dead now, Sharon Tate, Steve McQueen, Bruce Lee. It kind of occurred to me that Scoot McNary’s cameo as businessman Bob Gilbert was supposed to be him as Bruce Dern playing that role. Which kind of worked out as a fun connection since the real Bruce Dern is in this as George Spahn. It would have been cool to see Burt Reynolds in a Quentin Tarantino picture, but Bruce Dern is the fucking best. I recently heard that Tarantino considered casting Jennifer Lawrence as Squeeky Fromme, thank god he didn’t do that. Dakota Fanning is a way better actor than Jennifer Lawrence, and much better suited for this role.
I don’t understand why there are people that think this picture is so controversial. For the Bruce Lee scene, it’s a fucking fiction. Cliff Booth wasn’t a real guy, but in this made up world if he was Tarantino can write him as anything he wants, so he can easily be the guy more badass than Bruce Lee. And it’s not like Tarantino said Bruce Lee was a bad person or anything, he just showed him as he was, a little cocky. And at the end when Brad Pitt started beating the shit out of the hippie murderers, how the fuck could anyone get offended by that. They were there to fucking kill everyone in that house, they got exactly what was coming to them. In my theater anyways when Brad Pitt started smashing that girl’s face into the telephone it brought the fucking house down, and everyone went even crazier when Rick Dalton used his flamethrower to incinerate the last hippie. It was fucking awesome and fuck anyone that doesn’t think so.
I think this is Tarantino’s best picture, but it’s also even better for anyone that wants to make movies. It’s like a fairytale with all these character’s hopes and dreams. Sharon Tate has made it and realizes how fortunate she is, Rick Dalton has pretty much made it but doesn’t realize how good he has it, and Cliff Booth could give a fuck, he just wants to enjoy the ride. It’s kinda inspirational. And that fairytale idea is really driven home at the end with Rick Dalton having saved Sharon Tate’s life, and is now walking up the hill to her house to meet her, and who knows what will be in store for him next. There’s a touch of sadness to that final moment because we know that this alternate reality is not what went down in 1969. The music playing during that ending scene is from “The Life and Time of Judge Roy Bean” and in the script I believe it says something along the lines of, “If this isn’t exactly accurate to what happened, than it’s better than the truth, and it’s what should have happened.”