It should come as no surprise that a director that has spent his whole life studying film has created a love letter to 1960s era Hollywood. Quentin Tarantino’s 9th film follows an aging actor named Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) as they begin to face the end of their careers in Hollywood’s golden age. In a parallel story, Dalton’s neighbor, Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), begins her career with the shadow of the Manson Family looming over the whole film.
At this point, you should know what you are getting when you see a Tarantino movie. If you are a fan, then this is a must-see movie. If you aren’t a fan of his work, this movie probably isn’t going to get you on board. The snappy dialogue, attention to detail, and big performances are front and center, with plenty of over the top violence (though not as much as I expected) and language mixed in there. I will say it does feel over-indulgent and you can feel Tarantino’s ego coming through at times. It isn’t necessarily distracting, but it is definitely present.
Even though DiCaprio is the lead and is great in the role, especially in a few key scenes, it is Pitt that steals the show. He’s fantastic in his part and clearly works really well with Tarantino and his dialogue. He also has really good chemistry with DiCaprio and they play off each other nicely. Margot Robbie is good as Sharon Tate, she just isn’t in the movie as much as I expected.
The production and set design are great and it really takes you back to this different time in Hollywood. If you have ever lived there or even visited, it might have a bigger impact on you having seen the landmarks in person. But even I, who has never been close to California, was able to put myself in 1960s Los Angeles while watching this.
The story is probably the weakest part of the movie. There is a lot going on at the same time and the nearly 3-hour runtime starts to feel evident through the second act, which could have been cut down significantly. The Manson stuff is handled in a pretty interesting way in the third act, to say the least. After some thought, I like then ending, though I know not everyone will. It definitely takes some unexpected turns.
While Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is far from Tarantino’s best, it is nowhere near his worst. Its biggest flaw is that I don’t know how often I’ll go back to watch it again like I do some of his other movies. I recommend it to Tarantino fans, but you can probably wait for DVD or streaming to see it.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood gets a low Positive ROP.
Ratings from low to high: Felony, Misdemeanor, 10-4, Positive ROP, Golden Donut