Okay, can someone please give Brad Pitt his first Oscar?
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Dakota Fanning, Timothy Olyphant, Kurt Russell, Margaret Qualley, Julia Butters, Austin Butler, and Al Pacino, ‘Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood’ is the ninth film from the acclaimed writer and director Quentin Tarantino.
Set in 1969 Hollywood, it follows aging movie star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his best friend/stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), as they try to find work and success in a world which is going to change forever.
If you know me, then you know that I was ridiculously hyped for this movie. It’s Quentin Tarantino’s latest cinematic experience, and it was also my most anticipated movie of 2019. So, you could say that I was excited yet incredibly nervous when sitting down in a popcorn riddled cinema seat with a bunch of Tarantino fans. But did the almost three-hour love letter to the film industry live up to my high expectations? To put it lightly… IT F#####G DID!!!!!!!!!!!
Now, as always I’m NOT going to include any spoilers in this review. There are some movies that I’ve reviewed where I could’ve gotten away with spoilers, but this is a movie that you need to go in almost blind. You can watch the trailers as they don’t reveal much, but do go in with a basic knowledge of the Manson family murders. Trust me, you really need a basic understanding of that controversial topic.
Now, let’s get into it!
First of all, I need to talk about the work by Tarantino and the Production crew, especially Production Designer Barbara Ling. As soon as the movie begins, you are transported into 1969 Hollywood, and it’s beyond incredible! The cars, the bright neon lights, the buildings, everything looks like it’s from an actual documentary. It all looks real, and it’s a major positive. The fact that the production makes you feel like you are actually watching a movie from this era is beyond incredible!
While on the topic of the crew, I need to talk about Tarantino himself. Say what you will about Tarantino himself, you can’t help but see that the man is a genius in the film industry. His script here is easily one of his best yet, and considering how many scenes there are of just characters driving around Los Angeles without saying anything, that’s quite an achievement. The dialogue is typical Tarantino, with it being his wittiest and funniest so far. Yes, you did just hear that this is easily his most hilarious movie yet! One sequence, in particular, had almost everyone in my screening laughing out loud for a solid five minutes (if you’ve seen it, then you may know what I’m talking about).
He has also done a great job with the characters in the film, especially the two leads. Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth are two of Tarantino’s most memorable and enjoyable characters yet, and I would love an extended edition just to hang out with these two even more!
Speaking of the characters, the performances are incredible across the board. Firstly I should talk about Leo, who is back after a four-year break with one of his best performances yet! DiCaprio loses himself within the role of Rick Dalton, and it results in a highly enjoyable and hilarious time. Watching him play this aging star slowly become pathetic and depressed is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the movie. DiCaprio does a great job at making you feel sorry for him, but at the same time, you just can’t help but laugh at him. All in all, Dicaprio is pure perfection in this role.
Did someone just say pure perfection? Because Brad Pitt gives what is arguably his best performance yet as Cliff Booth. Pitt also loses himself within this role of one of the coolest movie characters of all time. As I half-mentioned earlier, Cliff Booth is one of Tarantino’s best-written characters, and it feels like Pitt was born to play this role. Watching him drive around Los Angeles, talking to people with dark secrets, and play around with his dog is highly enjoyable, and he also has some of the best one-liners in the movie. If Brad Pitt doesn’t at least get a Best Supporting Actor nomination, I will join the riots.
Margot Robbie is also fantastic as Sharon Tate. Robbie gives an innocent and energetic performance as one of Hollywood’s most tragic figures (if you know about her then you know why I say tragic). There has been a lot of controversy around Margot Robbie’s screentime, and I half agree with the fact that she is underutilised in this cut of the movie, but every time she is on-screen, Robbie brightens up the theatre, and she honours the memory of Tate exceptionally well.
Margaret Qualley and Julia Butters really surprised me with their supporting roles. Qualley gave an energetic and fun performance as Pussycat, a girl Cliff Booth runs into throughout the film. Butters gives a small but memorable performance as young child actor Trudi, who Rick runs into during the filming of a TV Pilot. I haven’t seen her in anything before this, and now I have to keep an eye out as she was incredible in this role.
It was also great to see Al Pacino have fun in a role again. It seems like it has been forever (and it pains me to say this) since he was giving a great performance in a great movie. There was a period where it seemed like he was just doing a terrible performance in a bad film for the money, but here he is back at it, and oh how I loved it!
Everyone else from Emile Hirsch to Dakota Fanning was also incredible, and I could easily spend another thousand words just talking about each performance. The cast is ridicuoslousy good and I feel bad for leaving out so many other great performances. Anyway, I must move on.
Now, I wanna go back to talking about the main man himself, Quentin Tarantino as I need to briefly talk about his direction. Tarantino has always been a fantastic director, and his direction here is no exception. As you watch ‘Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood’, you get a sense for how committed Tarantino was when making it. From the little details to the way he presents certain information, you can see all of the love he put into this movie, and it pays off wonderfully. This is why I love Tarantino. He simply knows how to make a fantastic movie!
Another positive I want to talk about it the soundtrack, which may be my favourite out of every Tarantino film so far. Was that a big claim? Yes, it was! This soundtrack perfectly captures the mood and atmosphere of 1969 Hollywood and how every character is feeling. The use of ‘Out of Time’ by the Rolling Stones, in particular, is one of my all-time favourite uses of music in a movie. Overall, it’s a fantastic soundtrack.
If I had any negatives with ‘Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood’, it would be that there isn’t much of a focused plot. Yes, you could argue with that statement, but the majority of it is a hangout movie, and I’m perfectly fine with that. Even though there are points where a focused plot would have been ideal, it still works well. Look I had to make a nitpick, and I’ve only managed to make two.
I’ll also say that be prepared for the final forty minutes, as you’ll either love it or hate it. Personally, everyone I know (including myself) adored that final sequence, but I can definitely see some of you not liking it. Just be prepared and go with it, as it’s definitely one of my top five Tarantino sequences so far!
Overall, ‘Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood’ is a dazzling cinematic love letter to the final days of the golden age of cinema. Quentin Tarantino has created another memorable movie experience which any lover of cinema will fall in love with. Filled with incredible performances, fantastic production design, and a hilarious script, ‘Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood’ deserves a spot among Tarantino’s best works. If you ever once thought that there have been no more original movies coming out of Hollywood, do yourself a favour and watch this hypnotic piece of pure, old fashioned cinema!