Movie Review – Once upon a time in Hollywood

Once upon a time in Hollywood – written and directed by Quentin Tarantino
Release date: August 16th 2019
Genre: I’d go as far as to say that Tarantino movies is it’s own genre
Runtime: 2 hours 41 minutes

I’m not the biggest Tarantino fan, I’ve liked some movies and I’ve ignored and been bored by others (I may not be the target demographic) but I still had to see the most important movie of the year; once upon a time in Hollywood.

Let me start this by saying that I’m an 80’s kid so 60’s references tend to go over my head, but I do have some history and pop culture knowledge beyond my years and the Easter eggs I found in the movie was the fun part. If you haven’t seen it and don’t want spoilers, well, come back later, it’s all spoilers from here!

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First off we meet our two leading men, Leonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton, a movie star about to go over the hill and Brad Pitt as his stuntman and PA Cliff Booth. (Their names Dalton and Booth hardly being coincidences!)

The movie is clearly an homage to western, spaghetti western, Hollywood, pop-culture and himself! If you’re a die hard Tarantino fan I’m sure you’ll find way more references to his previous movies than I did. 

And the cowboy/western references wasn’t something I necessarily caught or have seen before, but I know Steve McQueen and Burt Reynolds and had a feeling that there was “something” there even if I couldn’t put my finger on it, it felt like I was missing some clues… I DID however catch a clever CGI scene that allowed for DiCaprio to do a stand in for McQueen in a scene from an actual old movie. Thought that was well done, yet noticeable. 

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We also meet Sharon Tate played by Margot Robbie. Her role is smaller than our two leading men and leaves us wanting more. My favorite part was when she entered the movie theatre to watch her own movie and we see scenes from the movie “The wrecking crew” with Sharon Tate herself. 

The Manson crew hangs around and we see them here and there, and I stupidly sat for 3 hours awaiting the tragic moment that never came. Tarantino is not basing his movie on reality, he’s taking real people and fictitious composite characters and placing them in his own reality. I wish I knew this beforehand so that it wouldn’t feel so anticlimactic for me. And if you know Tarantino movies and you’re expecting violence, then you need to look elsewhere, the violence in this is blink and you’ll miss it.

Another scene that needs to be addressed is the Bruce Lee scene where Brad Pitts character keeps referring to him as Kato. This is a reference to the green hornet movie where Bruce Lee allegedly refused to do a scene where his character would lose and so the script was rewritten to end in a draw. In the movie Brad Pitt fights Bruce Lee and they end in a draw. Fine enough. What bothered me was how it was set up and how comedic this scene was made to make audience laugh at the late Bruce Lee. I found it disrespectful to his memory. The scene also hints at Lee being the inferior fighter and I’m not even going to comment on that.

In the end, my body felt sore after sitting 3 hours in the movie theatre and I left feeling indifferent and a little rattled. Equal parts fun and tedious. I’ll give it this though, the visuals and the coloring was right up my alley. Tarantino’s filming style is so interesting you can’t help but admire it and with stars lined up in every scene, I must mention Al Pacino, Emile Hirsch, Timothy Olyphant, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, Lena Dunham, and a special guest appearance by the late Luke Perry. Even if you’re not jumping at every reference or immersed in the story, the level of acting in this film alone is undeniable, Tarantino fan or not.

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