A bonkers fairy tale in classically-Tarantino fashion with pure nostalgia-hued Golden Age-Hollywood homages, soundtrack as provocative as its brilliant screenplay, star-studded cast of stellar performances, & wild QT final act. 8.5/10.
Plot Synopsis: Quentin Tarantino’s 9th film: Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood visits 1969 Los Angeles, where everything is changing, as TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) make their way around an industry they hardly recognize anymore. The ninth film from the writer-director features a large ensemble cast and multiple storylines in a tribute to the final moments of Hollywood’s golden age.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
From WWII to Civil War to 1960’s Late-Era Golden-Age Hollywood
Quentin Tarantino’s Back Baby!
1960’s: Manson x Golden-Age (leading into Renaissance/New Age) Hollywood. That was the tall order we were promised by legendary filmmaker Quentin Tarantino for his 9th outing, one made even more tantalizing by the trailer & announcement of a once-in-a-lifetime cast from Leonardo DiCaprio to Brad Pitt to Margot Robbie. After such inimitable masterpieces as Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight, Kill Bill Vols. 1/2, Inglorious Basterds, Reservoir Dogs, and Pulp Fiction, the film world’s eyes were all on July 25th like the premiere of any blockbuster film in its namesake ritzy town’s backdrop.. and Tarantino delivered yet again. Oh *boy*, did he deliver: A bonkers fairy tale in classically-Tarantino fashion with pure nostalgia-hued Golden-Age Hollywood homages, soundtrack as provocative as its brilliant screenplay, star-studded cast of sensational performances, & wild final act, Once Upon A Time in Hollywood is one of Tarantino’s greatest films to date.
A Mythic Cast Of Performances
Nostalgia to Hollywood’s Golden Age with plenty of Easter Eggs and eulogies to filmmaking. What’s easily the highlight of OUATIH is its golden paean esteems and invocation of the best of Hollywood’s history through every sensory way imaginable. It’s truly like taking a joyride through the annals of film archives and will smack a goofy grin on any cinephile’s face for ~3 hours that flicker by in a flash. More classic film posters, TV serial snippets, lunchboxes, vinyl-pop, and radio-ads than can possibly be mentioned with meticulous attention to detail and period-authenticity make for a spectacular trip through the escapist fare of moviemaking’s best era. It even features clever fourth-wall-breaking/meta references to the artform showing (with classic Tarantino whim, wry humor, & unmistakeable energy) the process of filmmaking with everything from messed-up lines, quick cut successions, shot-reversals, and replays of scenes as people come together across specialties and set jobs to try to create movies that stand the test of the time. Sensational.
Nostalgia To Hollywood’s Golden Age With Plenty Of Easter Eggs & Eulogies To Filmmaking
The cinematography to soundtrack to location settings majestically paint the glamour and ritzy lives of the rich and famous in Hollywood Hills’ idyllic settings as promised – only to be shaken up by the events of its equally-brilliant, topsy-turvy scripting. The screenplay is masterful – this is pantheon-level filmmaking here – juggling 3-4+ storylines simultaneously and a whole slew of rich, diverse characters weaved throughout and developed with ease before effortlessly uniting them all for the wild, auteristically-bonkers signature final act as promised by QT’s filmography. We are taken through Hollywood studio backlots with insecure has-been movie star Rick Dalton trying desperately to save his career, a juxtaposed-rougher lifestyle for his sacrificial stunt-double Cliff Booth, trophy wife/model Sharon Tate jumping between romances in typical LA-superficiality fashion, and a Manson cult arc creeping under the surface like a serial killer slipping between the cracks.
Leonardo DiCaprio x Brad Pitt: A Buddy-Cop Bromance Duo Made In Heaven
The performances. Leonardo DiCaprio absolutely (& predictively) steals the show as lead with one of his most hilarious and out-there performances to date; Pitt is equally as infectious in personality as support with an intriguing exposure of the double-standard in film treatment between the people just “reading lines other people wrote for them” and those doing the dangerous stuntwork behind-the-scenes (also makes an iconic buddy-duo deserving its own set of films with these two legendary actors going at it together for an extremely unique, refreshing mix!), Margot is a nice soothing juxtaposition storyline that’s easy on the eyes while also a mini-romance arc with potentially-catastrophic results setting up the famed Helter Skelter murder that shocked the world, and there is not a weak link to be found in the rest of the cast/cameos as the story escalates and twists until the final act as bravato-filled, wild, and bonkers as could only be found in a Tarantino film.
Manson & A Classically-Tarantino Big Crescendoed Delirium Finale
The final act. One of the craziest final acts I can remember of late – only really rivalled by other Tarantino films as a signature big boom finale characteristic of his filmography, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood ends with a tremendous bang that adds triumphant punctuation to this bonkers fairy tale set in the nightlit views of the motion picture capital. Immaculately tying all story threads together while also leaning heavy into its Manson arc with his cult trying to break in and kill some socialites in the Hollywood Hills on beckon-command, they meet a much different ending than they anticipated for MAXIMUM drink-spitting entertainment value – with everything from flamethrowers to butcher knives to dog-attacks to sleeping pills amongst incessant yelling assaulting your senses in the best possible way. What’s even more impressive in the finale and throughout the film is that Tarantino emphatically silences any of (foolish) critics/detractors claiming his films have “too much gore/cussing” (he’s stayed true to his promised style of brazen irreverency since PULP FICTION, you dolts) by shockingly having almost none of its perfectly licenseable gore and violence to be *certainly* expected in a film set around the events of the Manson murders. Instead, he decides to subvert expectations with quite simply a godly ~3-hour road trip through spectacular storytelling amenable to all discernible tastes and genre-reminiscent of Westerns, Old Hollywood, Slasher, and Drama flicks all blended together for a product any film aficionado will gulp down by the gallons.
Flaws: More Margot & Manson
Minor flaws in Once Upon A Time in Hollywood include a comparatively-smaller role for Margot Robbie than was expected and Manson arc I wish was a little more pronounced. Margot is only really shown in glimpses as sort of a bimbo Tate not nearly utilized to the extent her considerable acting talents demand, and we only get one actual glimpse of Charlie Manson (a perfect look-alike as well nonetheless) plus few glimpses of his cult until the ending I really wish had gotten more screentime for its massive (spectacular) entertainment value. Even a couple of slasher scenes or teases placed carefully throughout would’ve done the trick, perhaps in place of some of the nostalgia-leaning in the first act that’s undeniably enchanting don’t get me wrong, but might’ve been better diluted for a bit more balance in tonal bite.
A Fairy Tale In Classically-Tarantino Idiosyncratic, Wild Stylism
One Of His Best Films Ever
Overall, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is a masterpiece and one of Tarantino’s best films to date – an incredible feat given his already-illustrious filmography that somehow keeps getting one-upped every outing. A bonkers fairy tale in classically-Tarantino fashion with pure nostalgia-hued Golden-Age Hollywood homages, soundtrack as provocative as its brilliant screenplay, star-studded cast of sensational performances, & wild final act, OUATIH easily cements Tarantino as one of the Top 5 directors in film history in my book, as well as one of the greatest auteurs and most influential/inimitable minds the medium has ever seen.
Official CLC Score: 8.5/10