It took Quentin Tarantino 27 years from 1992 Reservoir Dogs to direct his ninth film, the penultimate of his career according to what he has stated over and over again. Once Upon a Time In Hollywood’s exceptional cast includes Leonardo Di Caprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Al Pacino, Michael Madsen, Kurt Russell and many more. Apparently this movie has been received quite coldly, or at least less enthusiastically than usual for a Tarantino film. And what do I think of it?
I had a lot of fun for the first two hours or so, and then I was gripped by tension throughout the final act until the typically Tarantinian ending. In short, I liked this film a lot: it’s masterfully shot and photographed, with spectacular actors, amazing costumes and set designs, and with an absolutely amazing soundtrack. In my opinion, its structure could be viewed as problematic, in the sense that the story seems to go nowhere for most of the movie. Having said that, since everything I saw on the screen entertained me and amused me all the time, why should I complain too much about it?
The plot, let’s be generous and assume that there’s a plot, is the following: in 1969, Rick Dalton (Leonardo Di Caprio) is an actor who, after having been the star of a western television series, has tried and failed to become a movie star. He spends his time with his faithful friend and stuntman Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), who drives him around and keeps his villa in Cielo Drive in good conditions. Meanwhile, here’s Sharon Tate (an unbelievably beautiful Margot Robbie), Dalton’s neighbor, living her life with Roman Polanski and her friends. And here let me stop both because I don’t want to enter spoiler territory, and because in reality there’s not much else to reveal except the finale, which I won’t reveal!
I believe that if you liked Hail, Caesar! by the Coen brothers (2016), then you’ll also enjoy Once Upon a Time In Hollywood. Both movies demonstrate the directors’ love of cinema and both feature an amazing historical reconstruction of a Hollywood era long gone. Plus, Once Upon a Time In Hollywood is, most of the time, a comedy. Tarantino had never let his comedic talent shine so much as in this movie: the confrontation between Cliff and Bruce Lee (Mike Moh), Rick Dalton’s scenes in the western series, the references to Sergio Corbucci and Antonio Margheriti (he already used the name of the latter in Inglorious Basterds, 2009) even using scenes taken directly from their films, the replacement of Steve McQueen in The Great Escape (1963), the flamethrower of The 14 Fists of McCluskey… the list could go on and on!
If you like Tarantino’s style, here you will find it in every shot, in every camera movement, and in every dialogue. You’ll find shots of Margot Robbie driving like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill (2003) and walking at the airport like Pam Grier in Jackie Brown (2003); and you’ll find nude female feet in the foreground like in Kill Bill and Death Proof (2007). You’ll also find a finale close in spirit to that of Inglorious Basterds… in short, it’s clearly a Tarantino movie.
It’s great how the director filmed his actors being actors in movies within the movie in order to show what the audience cannot normally see at the cinema that is what happens between a take and the next, or just before and after finishing shooting a scene. In such scenes Leonardo Di Caprio demonstrates all his talent! The mix between real facts and fiction is also interesting and makes the progressing of the story absolutely unpredictable.
Not that it matters much, as an actual story is practically nonexistent. The beauty of the movie lies in immersing oneself in this 1969 Hollywood imagined by Tarantino who didn’t hesitate in filling his script with references to magazines, TV programs, movies, and real characters, demonstrating both his encyclopedic knowledge and, for the umpteenth time, his nerdy nature. For this reason, I think that it’s impossible to fully appreciate all the nuances of the film by watching it once, so much so that I already want to rewatch it! But since it’s two hours and forty minutes long (even though it doesn’t feel like it), I guess I’ll do it when I get it on DVD / Bluray. Ciao!
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