Friday, July 26, 2019

Review: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Release date: July 26, 2019
Running time: 161 minutes
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is Quentin Tarantino's 9th project that takes us to 1969 Hollywood and follows the exploits of fella TV and movie star Rick Dalton, played by Leonard DiCaprio, and his stunt double Cliff Booth, played by Brad Pitt.  The pair try to cope with a rapidly changing Hollywood that they no longer recognize from their glory days.  DiCaprio's character is an emotional mess as he deals with this change, while Pitt's character was cold as ice despite the shifting nature of Hollywood.  

This movie depicts 1969 Hollywood by compiling numerous story lines.  Some lead to danger, some lead to new opportunities, but all have consequences.  As with every Tarantino film, these story lines are filled with cameos from stars, new and old.  You'll see Luke Perry, Margot Robbie, Mike Moh (as Bruce Lee!), Dakota Fanning, and Maya Hawke to name a few.  

Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood (2019)When it comes to a Tarantino project you can usually guarantee two things: tons of gore and action shots involving feet.  However, in Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, Tarantino breaks from his mold and only includes one of these! Despite the lack of gore, there is some action, but the real draws of the film are the fantastic acting, interesting dialogue, and the film's vibrant score.  

As you would expect from a film set in 1969, One Upon a Time in Hollywood  is filled with 60's and 70's nostalgia from labels, brands, businesses, devices, and my favorite, classic cars.  Just imagine all of the classic Hollywood commercials but with Tarantino's style and a star-studded cast.  Tarantino went all out, including using 35 mm film to really capture the feel of the era.  This authenticity includes film distortion and other 35 mm editing techniques.  It really is amazing to see!  

It’s not all positive in Hollywood’s golden era. This film is a three hour movie and at times it feels like it.  Sometimes it just lacked the ability to keep the audience’s attention.  This is a problem in an almost three hour film and something that is unusual for a Tarantino piece.  It feels like it could have been remedied by some cutting of unnecessarily or tonally abstract scenes in order to shorten the run time.  Additionally, the idealized Hollywood setting sometimes fails to display the harshness of the changing times and downplays the evil nature of the Manson family.  

In all this movie was about three hours long—standard for Tarantino films—but the lack of gore and action many of his other projects have caused it to feel like a three hour film.  If you stay for the ending, though, Tarantino makes up a little for this deficit.  If you are a Tarantino fan, you will likely see this in theaters, but if the prospect of sitting through a three hour film with little action doesn’t sound appealing to you, maybe wait to see it at home.  Once Upon a Time In Hollywood is a visual treat that captures a golden time in Hollywood perfectly, but the long run time and lack of action hamper this Tarantino epic.

Rent it.
Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood (2019)

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