Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★★½

This film is about romanticizing Old Hollywood, and I think Tarantino’s blindspots to that era’s darker aspects prevent this movie from ever even approaching greatness. This blind spot is made evident throughout, but primarily during the Bruce Lee sequence here, which is genuinely awful and tone deaf in a way that feels flooring, even for him. I don’t think the film is really about anything, but the few morsels of a theme here are born from an incredibly narrow mindset, and it’s distracting.

But... this movie works for long stretches, and features an incredible ensemble where literally every actor gets a chance to show off. This is one of DiCaprio’s best performances, and Pitt’s best performance since Basterds. I also loved the quick appearances from Maya Hawke, Dakota Fanning, Al Pacino, and Lorenza Izzo. Julia Butters is also a great discovery, and her scenes stand out as some of the sweetest Tarantino has written. And, as a gay man, I obviously gasped when REBECCA fucking GAYHEART showed up for five seconds.

The best scene, however, is when Sharon goes to see herself in the movie. It’s a brilliantly acted sequence from Robbie, and manages to convey Tarantino’s love for movies in a way that feels genuinely moving and free of cynicism. Tate plays a much smaller role in the story than I figured she would, but it’s a testament to Robbie’s abilities that her work is mostly what I’ve thought about since leaving the theater.

Truthfully, this does feel like B-tier Tarantino for me, and I don’t think I’ll ever return to it, at least by choice. But it’s good.

Matt T liked this review