Justin Peterson’s review published on Letterboxd:
(The 9th film from Quentin Tarantino)
This time QT serves up an immersive extra slow burn, that offers an inside look at the journey of a fading actor, and his stunt man during the waning years of Hollywood's Golden Age.
'He said he was the Devil and they came to do some devil, stuff .... now don't quote me verbatim on that'
Quip of the review: Well Tarantino never fails to remind us that he loves old westerns, cruising around in cars, brutal violence, and above all else women's feet.
As alluded to in the opener this is a very slow movie, but I would liken it to someone setting up dominos, and as slowly as QT sets up the pieces in this film, he definitely makes the journey worth it during its fiery climax. Now you may say Justin, all QT films are pretty slow and packed with dialogue. While this is true, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood has far less of that signature QT hilarious dialogue. With the nature of this being a much more somber story, he dials back significantly on those punchy moments which makes the film feel much slower. Another way QT likes to work with slower scenes, is by developing a growing sense of tension throughout. And while there were some tension building scenes like at the ranch infested with Manson followers, there were far less than what you would typically expect in his movies. I still enjoyed the film, but the slow pacing and him wanting us to just hang out with these characters was something that I did think about often as the story progressed.
So we heard from the start that QT wanted to make a film about the Manson murders and Sharon Tate, and just like in ‘Inglorious Basterds’ he takes a revisionist approach to history, and shows us what would have happened if the murders would have accidentally broken into the house next door, and came face to face with a bad ass stunt man and an insecure actor clinging to the end of his career. And in glorious QT brutally violent fashion, we get to see these guys we have followed around for the past two hours smoke their hippie asses. Thus giving us this ‘Once Upon a time’ fairy tale ending, instead of the actual tragic murder of Tate and her unborn child. The lullaby music at the end, and Margot Robbie’s super fun loving and sweet performance as Tate, worked perfectly to deliver this uniquely sentimental ending to a QT film.
Going back to the violent climax for a moment, you could see this as one of the most prolonged built-ups of all time for a home invasion movie. Also what a perfect setup up and pay off we get with Dalton taking out the flamethrower that he kept from his WW2 movie where he got to burn up some Nazis, and later a murderous Manson follower.
‘Can we do something about it getting so hot? …. No its a flamethrower’
The stunt man named Clint is excellently played by Brad Pitt, who feels just like his character from ‘Inglorious Basterds’. And the character of his actor partner Rick Dalton, is yet another brilliant performance from Leonardo DiCaprio. Some of my favorite moments are when we are given these unexpected flashbacks to fill in the gaps of their back story, like how Clint apparently killed his wife. Also Kurt Russell is in there to narrate occasional in the rare moments when the story just quickly summaries points, like Dalton’s stint in Italy starring in Spaghetti Westerns.
Wow did Dakota Fanning look different in this movie.
A couple of the film’s best moments in the first half, were seeing Dalton struggle as an alcoholic actor:
- There is a scene where he starts yelling at himself about being embarrassed about getting drunk the night before and having trouble with his lines. During the rant at himself he says he will never drink again, which is then shortly followed up by him taking another drink from his flask
- There is a meta sequence where he is in the middle of a scene of a TV show he is filming, and forgets his line. He is told to keep going, but instead he insists that they should do it again. So we get to see the view of the camera resetting, and then watch the scene play out perfectly just like Dalton wanted
- Finally, he has a couple of amazing scenes with a young actress named Julia Butters, who stars on the show ‘American Housewife’. It is funny to hear how composed she is as an actor, while Dalton as this experienced professional is a complete mess. She mentions how she is a character actor and explains how being in character on set, helps to improve her performance. Which I think may have been QTs way of poking fun at these kinds of actors. In their first scene together she asks Dalton about the book he is reading, which turns out to be eerily similar to the state of his career that is burning out, which causes him to break down in tears.
Just like in QT’s other recent work Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood is very indulgent, but he does change up his approach this time to tell a much different story. It is an excellent movie which does a fantastic job at capturing a period of time that is very special to him. But it is a slow ride that I don’t see myself revisiting nearly as much as his other masterpieces. But I do appreciate how we have modern auteur filmmakers like QT, that have the freedom to make stylistic films that draw mass appeal from general audiences. Now the anticipation beings on what his proclaimed 10th and final film will be.
P.S. Where’s the Samuel L. Jackson appearance QT???
Thanks for reading.
Happy movie watching ... SKOL!