Quentin Tarantino’s filmography includes eleven movies that he has written and directed. His plan is to only make one more two more and then move on to other pursuits leaving his directorial filmography complete. Those movies are Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill Volume One, Kill Bill Volume Two, Grind House Death Proof, Inglorious Bastards, Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight, and now Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Tarantino likes to make films that look at a genre of film and highlight great film makers. He plays homage to the greats while creating something original, which is just one of the reasons why he is so respected as a film maker. Yet to do this successfully you must still have characters people care about, or want to watch and a well developed story. Another score for Tarantino in Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Etc. His work is critically acclaimed and he deserved the awards he has won. I grew up loving, quoting and re-watching Reservoir dogs, Jackie Brown and Pulp Fiction. Inglorious Bastards, Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight are two of my favorite westerns. True Romance and Four Rooms, though not complete directing credits are writing credits and I love those movies too, so I have been looking forward to this fantasy twist of the Manson story of Hollywood for a while. How would Tarantino play it? What part would the Tate murders play in the story? What was his interest in the sixties?
Tarantino it turns out was interest in the friction between the two cultures that existed during the end of the sixties. The rising hippy culture and existing culture Hollywood. As always he was very aware of the zeitgeist of the times he was portraying and he was exploring the tension it created at the time and its affect on the put together, uptight culture that preceded it. Rick Dalton, played so beautifully by Leonardo DiCaprio is just one such aging actor of the sixties who is not on the hippie train. He is watching his world crumble and change as his flame is either extinguished or can go to ittaly and make spaghetti westerns to try and salvage his dying carrer (sound like anyone you know). While the film makes references to Steve McQueen going so far as to show you the Great Escape, Clint Eastwood kept poping up in my mind with Rawhide and then all of his westerns. Will Rick be able to adapt to the new world he is living in or will the “Fucking Hippies” get him? He is emotionally vulnerable, often stuttering, dim witted, and breaks down into tears several times.
Brad pit plays his long time friend, Cliff Booth, a man’s man and though slightly in touch with the changing times more aware of his surrounding as well. I am less aware of stunt men from the time, but there is a story to his character that reminded me of the actor Robert Wagner. He is of the times though often saying horrifically crass things like “Don’t cry in front of the Mexicans” when Dalton breaks down outside of a restaurant. But he is definitely more grounded.
The story is essentially a buddy flick about these two characters decide what they will do next with there lives and I wanted to know what would happen next. I cared! Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski are side characters. Margot Robbie does an excellent job, but she is unessential for most of the movie. And of course, as with all Tarantino movies, history is unimportant because this is a fairy tale and the ending is what he wants it to be. As with Inglorious Bastards where he killed Hitler, do not expect the evening on August 8, 1969 to go the way you expect.
As to the end of the film. The only other thing I will reveal, because I do not believe in revealing spoilers. I will warn you it is horrifically brutal. I am somewhat desensitized to violence. I watch a lot of violent stuff because of what I do and I have done some internships for school so many times film violence does not bother me. This did. At first I was laughing along with everyone else and then I cheered. And then I just sat there appalled. It is graphic and a little much. It’s not even that there is a lot of gore, it’s more the absolute brutality of it, and perhaps slightly the reaction of my audience mixed in. I’m not sure, but it disturbed me.
As to the rest of the movie, there are a few pacing issues. A bout half way through the movie I was ready for it to get moing a little faster. Pitt and DiCaprio are fantastic together, I will go see them in any other collaboration. The use of music was brilliant. Not just as foreshadowing cues like Mrs Robinson’s when Pitt Meets Pussycat, played by Margaret Qualley, but also “Out of Touch” as the airport arrival song but also the use of commercials on the radio and the fact that we got song snippets as they characters were driving instead of full songs, showing they were actually traveling!
Another brilliant scene worth seeing and one of my favorites is the Cliff, Lee fight scene. From the dialogue to the fight scene the entire thing was hilarious. DiCaprio’s break out scene was his meltdown in the trailer and his comeback lines with Luke Perry. He actually does such a good job the whole movie its hard to pick just one scene because as I write this I want to point out more but I don’t want to start giving away anything.
I would love to say I loved this movie, but it’s more I loved the performances in it. I was bored at times, their was once again FEET (WHY, JUST WHY, three times no less?), and a pit bull is used to attack and maul someone. As if the dogs don’t have enough PR problems. This is not a Tarantino great film. Its OK and does not have to be seen on the big screen at all. If you can’t wait to go see it I won’t discourage you, but really at an average of $9.00 a ticket, I should never have a desire to check my phone in the middle of a movie. I liked his last two more, but this is definitely above Kill Bill which I did not like.
Once Upon a Time In Hollywood (US Release Date 7/26/2019)
Writer, Director Quentin Tarantino
Cast Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Margot Robbie, Luke Perry, Timothy Olyphant, Austin Butler, Maya Hawke, Margret Qualley, Dakota Fanning