Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood (2019)

once upon a time in hollywood poster 2019 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting : 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great looking, great cast, tense moments and build-up

Ending takes you completely out of the movie and wrecks what had been developed

Movie Info

Movie Name: Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

Studio:  Columbia Pictures

Genre(s): Comedy/Mystery/Suspense/Drama

Release Date(s):  May 21, 2019 (Cannes)/July 26, 2019 (US)

MPAA Rating: R

Quentin Tarantino takes you on a tour of 1960s Hollywood

Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) used to be someone.  The former star of Bounty Law and his stunt double and friend Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) now find work as the heavy in the multitude of TV series and pilots shot on the backlots of Hollywood studios.  With Marvin Schwarz (Al Pacino) offering full time work in Italy as leads in Spaghetti westerns, Rick is questioning his future.  Meanwhile, Rick’s new neighbor Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) and his wife Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) are on the rise…and in an unplanned collision course with a cult run by a man named Charles Manson (Damon Herriman).  In Hollywood, everything can change in an instant, and Rick Dalton still could get his shot!

Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood (often printed as Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) is a comedy-drama fantasy.  Following Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight in 2015, the film premiered at Cannes and was released in the United States on July 26, 2019.  It received positive reviews upon its release.  The film won Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor (Pitt) and Best Production Design with nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (DiCaprio), Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Sound Editing.

once upon a time in hollywood sharon tate wrecking crew margot robbie

A rising star

Tarantino is so tough.  Pulp Fiction was a monumental film for me and the poster hung in my dorm room like many other people of my generation.  I thought Jackie Brown showed that Tarantino could show restraint in telling his stories, and Kill Bill showed that he could “go crazy” again if he wanted.  Death Proof showed me the ugly side of Tarantino where he allows himself to go unchecked, and though many loved it, I wasn’t that big of fan of Inglourious Basterds…which is what I think was the most comparable film to Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood.

Much like Inglourious Basterds, the film is a fantasy.  You go into the movie knowing that DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters never existed so it was going to be difficult for them to have much of an effect on the outcome of the slaughter at Polanski’s home.  The film rolls along exceptionally with great locations, tense moments that are deftly acted (like Pitt’s visit to the Ranch with Bruce Dern), and interesting characters…and then the ending hits.

once upon a time in hollywood cliff booth ranch scene brad pitt

One of my favorite Quentin Tarantino scenes of all time…

There are moments throughout the film where Tarantino plays his Tarantino card (like the unnecessary interrupting flashback of Dalton losing his driver’s license for example), but the ending turns the story into a complete fantasy with the idea that every simple moment can change the course of history…but it feels below the film.  The violence is still there toward the “villains”, and it is somewhat cathartic to have Manson’s people go down since you don’t want Tate or any of the people you’ve seen die.  I just kind of wanted “the story” since Tarantino’s choice takes you out of it.

The acting is top notch.  DiCaprio and Pitt work well together and the triangle of Pitt, DiCaprio, and Robbie show three different types of actors living three different types of life in Hollywood.  Robbie’s Tate bubbles and is just starting out in the world and it is great to contrast it with someone like Bruce Dern’s George Spahn who is old, bitter, and broken.  Mike Moh does a really good Bruce Lee but his use in the story was criticized by people who felt that it made a mockery of him.  I liked Kurt Russell and Zoe Bell as the stunt coordinator fed up with Pitt’s character.  There are tons of supporting actors like Emile Hirsh, Timothy Olyphant, Margaret Qualley, Dakota Fanning, Damian Lewis, Brenda Vaccaro, Al Pacino, Lena Dunham, Maya Hawke, Nicholas Hammond, Harley Quinn Smith, Danielle Harris, Rumer Wilson, Michael Madsen, James Remar, Rebecca Gayheart, and Clu Gulager.  The film also featured Luke Perry in his final role.  Tim Roth, Danny Strong, and James Marsden also appeared in scenes cut from the film.

once upon a time in hollywood rick dalton flamethrower ending leonardo dicaprio

Sometimes you just have to torch a wacko in your pool

In addition to the strong acting, the visuals are fantastic.  Tarantino really gets the wonder and allure of old Hollywood and what it meant to make it there.  The shots of the under-crowded highways loaded with vintage cars, the locations, and the restaurants are great.  It really creates the vibe of the film and helps propel it forward…even things like the socio-economic differences of the characters involve and the hippie movement clashing with the clean cut, classic Hollywood is visually there and played to the max.

It is with the great visuals, great acting, and great story until the end which makes the movie a bit disappointing.  Can you forgo the events that wrap-up the movie and enjoy Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood if you dislike the ending?  It is hard, and I’m still trying to do it.  I realize with “Once Upon a Time” in the title that a fairytale is an option, but it doesn’t mean that it is the right choice.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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