There are only a handful of directors that provoke excitement from me when I see their names attached to a project — Quentin Tarantino is hands down one of those directors. Hell, I still remember how I felt the first time I saw Pulp Fiction in November of 1994 at the Shirlington Movie theater in Arlington, Virginia. It was such a powerful movie-going experience that I will always remember fondly.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a revisionist fantasy film based around the murders of Sharon Tate, her unborn child, and four of her friends by followers of the Charles Manson cult. I heard Tarantino wrote the end of the movie first and then worked his way backward — He came up with the whole story and concept of the film to justify the end.… Genius.
Leonardo DiCaprio is Rick Dalton, and Brad Pitt is Cliff Booth — These two are pure magic together. Brad Pitt received a well-deserved Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Rick Dalton is a Western action star, coming to terms with the realization that he might no longer be a leading actor. Cliff Booth is a Hollywood stuntman and Dalton’s best friend. There are whispers of foul play regarding Cliff’s wife and his involvement in her death. Cliff spends most of his day driving Dalton around town due to the suspension of his drivers’ license for DUI — Pitt’s driving scenes are very cool and stylish. There is this amazing chemistry between DiCaprio and Pitt. I wanted to see more of these two.
After watching it a few times, I have a few quick observations…. First, you get the sense like the movie is heading to Spahn ranch since the beginning — which is where some of the most exciting parts of this movie take place. There is a lot of moving parts at the ranch to keep an eye on; people walking around, lots of dogs in the background, which shows the place is alive — there is a lot of movement, and there is a lot of stuff happening throughout the ranch. Bruce Dern and Brad Pitt’s scene at the ranch is a beautiful thing to watch. I did not mind the slow pace; it works for me. The dialogue is excellent, as you might expect from a Tarantino written film. The set designs are great, and so are the atmospheric shots and angles.
… and for the supporting cast:
There are so many cameos all over the place, like Al Pacino, Luke Perry, Dakota Fanning, Clifton Collins Jr., Maya Hawke, Harley Quinn Smith, Michael Madsen, and many others, but Kurt Russell’s brief cameo was one of my favorites, his line: “I don’t dig him, and I don’t dig the vibe…” was a beautiful piece of dialogue. Charles Mason, played by Damon Herriman, who also played Manson in the superb Mindhunter Netflix series, was a perfect choice. The way Sharon Tate was portrayed by Margot Robbie was outstanding. She did not feel like another Tarantino type-character — she felt like a real person. Sharon Tate, at the movie theater watching herself on screen in the 1968 film The Wrecking Crew, was beautifully executed. She was brutally murdered, robbed of her life, and we get to see her living her life casually as a real person, unlike the other real-life character in this movie, Bruce Lee. He ends up getting turned into a Tarantino caricature type of character.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is by far the less exceptional film and my least favorite of the entire Tarantino filmography; nevertheless, it is still a splendid filmmaking achievement and a gratifying movie-watching experience. It is well written, beautifully shot, and packed with excellent performances.
Three out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿