Updated: Sep 23, 2021
When it comes to directors with a unique vision, none may be more prominent than that of Quinten Tarantino. Since his work on Reservoir Dogs, the acclaimed filmmaker has brought his sense of style to an array of movies such as Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, Inglorious Bastards and more recently The Hateful Eight. Now Tarrantino is back with his ninth motion picture and this time the director takes moviegoers to the land of the stars: Hollywood. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is a dramedy that depicts the stardom city during the 60’s. A film centering on a life in Hollywood is nothing new, but when you mix this concept with Quinten Tarantino, the end result could lead to anything. In this case what transpired was a film that was not only unique for the season, but unique for Tarantino himself.
Once Upon A Time in Hollywood tells the story of Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) an aging actor trying to remain relevant in the world of entertainment. While Rick works on a new western his stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) finds trouble around town while actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), who just so happens to be Rick’s neighbor, enjoys her success in the movies. The story of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood took me by surprise. When comparing it to other films from Quinten Tarantino the story to this film was rather straightforward in its narrative. Along with this sense of storytelling was the movie’s simplistic concept. Rather than having some deep theme or riveting conflict, the idea behind this plot was just an actor’s life in Hollywood. While this left much to be desired from the plot, as well as some points coming off as excessive, the simple nature to this tale was still captivating and in some ways refreshing. If nothing else the final act in this movie was a reminder that this tale of the limelight was indeed a Quentin Tarantino film; and I could not object to the story’s resolution.
When it came to the cast this one was an ensemble worthy of Taratntino. Leonardo Dicaprio provided a charismatic performance as Rick Dalton whose dilemma was easy to get into. Along with Dalton was the unpredictable Cliff who was just as enjoyable as Rick. Together DiCaprio and Pitt had a chemistry that was surprisingly effective as they came off as two people who have known each other for quite some time. When it came to Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate, the actress did an exceptional job despite the offputting direction of the character. When it came to her overall direction, Sharon Tate was a bit of an anomaly as she did not play a vital role in the story but her purpose in the movie was still a significant one. Along with the three central characters was supporting cast that was filled with stand out characters. The supporting cast featured an array of people relevant to the time from actors like James Stacy (Timothy Olyphant), Steve McQueen (Damien Lewis) and Bruce Lee (Mike Moh) to historical characters like Charles Manson (Damon Herriman), Charles “Tex” Watson (Austin Butler) and Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme (Dakota Fanning). There were some exceptions to this supporting cast like Al Pacino as producer Marvin Schwarzs, and Kurt Russell who portrayed both stunt coordinator Randy as well as the movie’s narrator. While some characters varied in relevance, most of the performances stood out and ended up being another fashionable ensemble both worthy for Tarantino’s resume and a film such as this one.
One area that stood above the rest was the cinematography. Not only did the colors resemble a 60’s film, but the camera work was exceptional as it led to many creative shots. The western sequences were particularly notable as it felt like a captivating film within a film (well in this case it was a television series within a film). The film’s comedy was right up Tarantino’s alley as there was a sense of wit within the dark humor. While this film was not the most action packed of Tarantino’s tenure, there were a few action-packed moments that featured the director’s sense of grit. When it came down to it, the technical aspects of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood showed off Tarantino’s keen direction and proving that the veteran filmmaker is just as stylish as ever.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is rather perplexing. Normally I would find the excessive delivery in a film like this to be off-putting, but in this case this attribute worked in favor of the dramedy. Also benefiting the movie was its simple story, great performances and fantastic sense of filmmaking; and that certainly never hurts. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was a captivating experience and in its own way truly one of a kind; and I expect nothing less from Quentin Tarantino.