“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is Tarantino’s 9th film and reportedly his next to last as a director. Although I haven’t personally been a huge fan of all of his works over the years, he has no doubt had an illustrious career filled with original and stylistic works that will leave an indelible impression on cinema. It’s fortunate that “Hollywood” will not be his last, as it is far from his best. If you’re not a fan of filmmaking, and 60’s Hollywood in particular, this one may pass by you.
Excellent performances, cinematography, and directing anchors “Hollywood.” Its pacing isn’t bad for a 165 minute film, but its plot is stretched thin in that time length. It’s more like a snapshot in time that wanders aimlessly and will mildly entertain you on a Saturday afternoon. The third act is the most amusing.
There’s no doubt that “Hollywood” is Tarantino’s love letter to the industry. He clearly feels a lot of nostalgia for 1960s Hollywood, in both the films of the era and L.A. itself. The costumes and set design are on point, and the vivid colors jump right off the screen. The best aspect of the film is the chemistry between Pitt and DiCaprio. The two of them have a very amusing friendship and play off each other beautifully.
Margot Robbie puts on a good performance as Sharon Tate, though her screen time is limited and seems unnecessary. Her character does serve a purpose and contributes to the larger theme of the story – how age and status is perceived in the film industry.
Honestly, I’ve had a difficult time thinking about what to say about “Once Upon a Time.” Although I saw it almost three weeks ago, it hasn’t been on the front of my mind. The film takes its time to tell its story, which as I said before, is more like a biography over the course of a few days than a structured three-act story. Tarantino has successfully sidestepped traditional story structure in the past because of how stylistic and exciting his movies are. In “Inglorious Bastards” and “Django,” there’s constantly witty dialog, exciting action, and great suspense. I don’t think that “Hollywood” embodies the strengths of Tarantino’s style, and since subtlety isn’t really a part of his repertoire, there’s not much here beyond face value. Yes, it’s still odd and entertaining, but there’s not a single scene that stands out over the others.
Some have said that this is one of Tarantino’s funniest films, but I would disagree. It’s very funny right off the bat, and it has its moments here and there, but for the majority of the runtime it won’t have you in stitches. I’d go so far as to say that this is his most serious film, at least up until the third act. It’s also surprisingly tame for the wildly inappropriate content creator.
“Once Upon a Time” may be a bit bloated in its runtime, but it’s still better than just about anything else out there right now. I’d recommend to see it, but it wouldn’t be worth a re-watch.