Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Timothy Olyphant, Julia Butters, Dakota Fanning, Al Pacino
Reviewed by: Brad Williamson
Genre: Drama / Comedy
Tarantino is one of the most divisive directors out there; as such, I might be the only person who is luke-warm on him. Most either love him or hate him or love to hate him, but I’m torn. On one hand are such true masterpieces as Pulp Fiction and Hateful Eight, and to a lesser degree the Kill Bills; while in the other hand we hold overrated films such as Inglourious Basterds and Resevoir Dogs; and still leftover, unable to decide quite how good they really are, we have Jackie Brown and Django Unchained.
And now we have Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, something completely different, something wholly un-Tarantino. Prior to this release I could at least juggle my opinions of his movies, but now they’ve all fallen to the floor and I must reassess my view of his entire repertoire, all because of this single, undeniably great film.
In my opinion, this and Hateful Eight are easily his best directorial productions, an artistic and stylistic evolution you can see starting in Django but which was not perfected yet there. This makes me wonder about his infamous 9-film promise, but anyway, moving on.
First of all, Brad Pitt is spectacular; he could be nominated for best actor for two different movies released in a span of weeks. And DiCaprio is no less spectacular, truly on the top of his game, with some of the most memorable outbursts in recent memory, hilarious and powerful in equal measures. Olyphant, too, though his role is small, was perfect. The acting was nothing short of absolute greatness and I think Tarantino even started a great career for the absolutely brilliant Julia Butters, who stole scenes away from DiCaprio himself.
Aside from the acting, I also loved the pureness of the movie. Initially you doubt their relationship because the movie star is so egocentric, but the film quickly and honestly tells you they are true friends, and the real reflections of people. There is no jockeying for emotions, as Tarantino tells a relatively straight-forward tale that is indeed made even more powerful by the juxtaposition of such storytelling next to his other films. Their actions, feelings, and relationship are visceral and honest, not fake and overdone like is so common in Tarantino’s films.
The movie continuously turns expectations on their heads, but with every turn of events, it’s a pleasant flip-flop in a way that Tarantino films are rarely known for, which I rather liked. The meta-movie scenes are also refreshing and fun, and honestly, if there is a weak link in the movie, it would be Tate’s scenes, the majority of which I believe could have been exchanged for more of these movie-in-movie shots.
The ending was magnificent, the pace subdued yet powerful and enjoyable, it was funny and sad, the acting was some of the best you’ll ever see, and the subject matter was heavy indeed, all executed in a fresh way, even for the master of fresh himself. Go see it now, you won’t be disappointed; if it is as great upon second viewing as it was the first, I will edit this post later and give it a 5-star. It may even become competition with Pulp Fiction as Tarantino’s best work.