Quentin Tarantino is known for being a controversial filmmaker, who often divides critics and audiences alike. A true auteur of film, his latest flick is a love letter to the last moments of the golden age of Hollywood. While his fetishised view of the period is a thoroughly entertaining snapshot, the story leaves much to be desired.
‘Once Upon A Time In Hollywood’ tells the story of Rick Dalton (a self-obsessed cowboy actor who’s star is dying out) and Cliff Booth (Rick’s stunt double and best friend) as they try to climb back into the limelight. Alongside their adventures are a plethora of real characters, including Rick’s next-door neighbour Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), Rick’s agent Martin Schwarz (Al Pacino), James Stacy (Timothy Olyphant), as well as a host of actors portraying almost the entirety of the Manson family.
Leo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt are absolutely (and unsurprisingly) fantastic as Rick and Cliff respectively. Their comic timing, dramatic tenacity and obvious devotion to the film make for thoroughly entertaining viewing. Brad Pitt’s character particularly gets a lot of meat to get his teeth into, though to delve into those would be to start revealing spoilers. Another actor who stood out was Julia Butters, a young child who completely held her own during several long scenes alongside DiCaprio. The rest of the ensemble cast are very entertaining and well-cast, though the majority have very little to do, including Margot Robbie who wasn’t on screen nearly enough.
The film is beautifully shot on film, giving the whole movie a gorgeous warm glow, which blended with stunning set design, made for a very authentic snapshot of the 1960’s. It’s commendable that, according to Tarantino, there were no green screens used in the film, and everything was shot practically with real locations or backdrops.
Clearly Tarantino was having an absolute ball while making this film, with a usual jukebox soundtrack and countless references to pop culture of the era making an appearance. HOWEVER, this greatest strength also becomes the films greatest downfall as it goes on.
The main issue with the film is that it barely goes anywhere. The story, similar to most of Tarantino’s films, plays fast and loose with history and chronology, and though this is entertaining, by the time the 2hr 40 runtime has ran its course, you’re left in almost the same place as when you started. Tarantino’s choice on where and how to end the film felt amazingly strange and anti-climatic for a film that promised so much, and this was disappointing. That’s not to say that others have shared this opinion, and there are many people who have absolutely adored the ending, stating it as being poignant, beautiful and emotional. I didn’t feel that, but you might.
The film is a quintessential Quentin flick, with a stylish aesthetic, dialogue scenes that go on for an unbelievable amount of time, and a style that plays fast and loose with audience expectations. It’s a wonderfully entertaining collage of 1969’s Hollywood, but as far as delivering a satisfying, historical or well-rounded story, it does fall short.