Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Review – Star Power & Typical Tarantino

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BY July 26, 2019

If you think about any of the stars in movies today, you’re going to have trouble coming up with bigger names than Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio. Their decades-spanning careers have brought them handfuls of awards, critical acclaim, and plenty of cash. DiCaprio is quite selective in his roles, and Pitt may have found himself stuck in one too many WW2 movies. Nonetheless, they are the true movie stars of their generation. Paired with Quentin Tarantino, whose name is often the first when you hear the word ‘director’, the three make a true Hollywood film together with Columbia Pictures. Any Once Upon a Time In Hollywood review, regardless of the author’s opinion on the film, cannot deny the pure star power in this movie.

A Movie About Movie Stars, Featuring Too Many Movie Stars

Before going into the “good buddy” characters of Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), we have to talk about the rest of the cast. Even the minor characters with little to say are recognizable faces. Maya Hawke, most recently seen in season three of Stranger Things, shows up for little impactful reason. Dakota Fanning, a once massive child star, could be the prime example of what could be of the young child star that Dalton runs in to. Austin Butler, who will soon portray Elvis in an upcoming biopic, is there to ride around on horses and look menacing, yet handsome. One of the only semi-unrecognizable faces is Damon Herriman. Herriman plays Charles Manson (and will oddly enough be portraying Manson AGAIN next month in season two of Mindhunter). However, the film isn’t about Manson. It’s about everybody else.

Tarantino is notorious for creating complex characters that don’t have to be likable. While everybody else in the film has their good and bad sides, Margot Robbie portrays Sharon Tate with such overwhelming joy. It’s hard not to fall in love with this reimagining of the late Tate. We want to dance right alongside her and cheer her on as she watches her own films. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood also features the great Al Pacino in a smaller role. It’s Luke Perry‘s brief feature that hits the hardest, as we all know that this will be the last time we get to see him on the big screen after his tragic passing earlier this year.

Pitt and Manson Family Members
Image via Sony

DiCaprio And Pitt – A Tribute To The Good Buddy

DiCaprio plays Dalton, a soon-to-be washed-out actor struggling with his dying fame. Pitt’s Booth is Dalton’s stunt-double to the world, but on a personal level, he is his best friend. Their lives couldn’t be any more different. Dalton goes home each night to relax in his pool. Booth spends each night eating Kraft Dinner with his adorable and well-trained dog. Despite their differences, Dalton has always tried his best to give jobs to Booth. The two men have become forever grateful for each other. It’s Booth who Dalton confides in over his has-been status, and it’s Dalton who defends Booth’s past.

What sets this buddy-flick apart from others is the sheer beauty of watching two of the greatest and most well-known actors alive bouncing off of one another. Their chemistry is palpable, and you understand just how much these men are like brothers. The praise that these two will earn from the film isn’t just because we’ve grown to trust their acting chops over the years. And, as a little girl who acts alongside Dalton says, his acting is the best that she’s ever seen. And we can’t say that we entirely disagree.

A Manson Movie That’s Not About The Mansons

Tarantino’s 2009 film, Inglourious Basterds is to WW2 as this film is to the Charlie Manson and Manson Family murders. Without spoiling the film, you should not go into this expecting to see how the Manson family came to be. Instead, the audience is made to wonder what they’re planning as we watch the lives of Hollywood’s elite live alongside the murderous bunch. An audience member who has never heard of the Manson Family could easily be tricked into thinking that they’re just made up characters for the film.

A Typical Tarantino Flick

Quentin Tarantino has created a list of “Tarantino-isms” that are found in almost all of his films. Once Upon a Time In Hollywood is no different, and almost seems to use these isms as fan service. Red Apple cigarettes are everywhere. There is a laughable homage to Inglorious Basterds. The soundtrack helps put us right into the atmosphere of the 60s. And, like all Tarantino movies, there are way too many close-ups of feet. Like, seriously. I’m betting that Robbie read the script, waiting for a mention of her feet. And boy, it came up.

It’s all these Tarantino specialties that draw audiences to the theatre. I watched the film at an earlier showing on opening night, to a relatively crowded theatre. Another movie-goer walked into the theatre before the commercials began, and loudly exclaimed: “I can’t believe there are this many Tarantino fans!” But, he shouldn’t have been so surprised. The director often talks about his plans to only create ten films, and this is his ninth. So, we may only have one more shot to see a Tarantino movie in theatres after this one.

Worth Seeing For The Buzz Alone

If you asked me if I liked Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, I honestly couldn’t give you a yes or no answer. The acting is superb. The music had me tapping my foot. The ending made my theatre gasp audibly, as is expected with any Tarantino movie. If you’ve seen enough of the director’s work, you know that you’re in for a long watch. The 161 minute running time is one to plan for, with appropriate snacks and refusing to take bathroom breaks. I would call this film an enjoyable experience, but it doesn’t leave me with a feeling of wonder and appreciation as I felt leaving other Tarantino films.

Once Upon a Time In Hollywood will leave you feeling nostalgic for the 60s, even if, like me, you weren’t alive back then. It’s worth a watch if you’re interested in auteur cinema, fun characters, and near-perfect editing. I don’t think that this film will be as influential as, say, Pulp Fiction, but it’s one that you’re going to want to see.

Featured image via Sony.


Meghan Hale is a graduate student living right outside of Toronto, Canada. She has always been the go-to gal for talking about anything film related and has a frustratingly long list of movie trivia up her sleeve. She is currently working on her first screenplay, as well as a horror novel, with the goal of publishing it while Stephen King is still around to read it.

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