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Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019) Review | A slow-burning love letter to ’60s Hollywood

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood HD Images
  • 9/10
    Critic's Rating - 9/10

Proudly put by Quentin Tarantino in a 2004 Interview with BBC News :
“I never went to film school..
I went to films.”

His love for the Hollywood of ’60s is throughout evident in his ninth film ‘Once Upon A Time in Hollywood’, which is heavily loaded with pop culture references of that era, has clever callback moments to his own movies, and several Easter eggs including signature Tarantino shots and brief cameos by legends.

One may or may not get these references all the time, but realizing them does make the viewing experience richer, as Tarantino decides to randomly be nice or mean to several reel and real life souls, while neatly altering the history –  he himself has never cared about it, so shouldn’t you. The Fuhrer of Nazis was killed in a French theater owned by a Jew, remember? So, if something unexpected happens with Bruce Lee or Sharon Tate in this Hollywood world, don’t worry about it.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood HD Images

The unpredictability is far less when it is the case with fictional characters – Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stuntman Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Actually Cliff’s not just a stuntman to Rick. Twice in the movie, a random narration describes their relationship as “more than a brother, less than a wife”. This narration does pop out of nowhere, making me wonder about its absence at required times and vice versa too.

What has been taken care of is the authenticity of the setting – the streets, the magazines, the pop style and the background score – these all make the movie constantly emanate the vibe of a grand movie set in L.A. The narration though slow-paced, is compelling for the most part. It demands a lot of time to engage one, getting even stagnant at times. What works during these sequences are the amusing dialogues, Robert Richardson’s lively cinematography, and the apt acting by the entire cast – something not to worry about in a Tarantino movie.

It looked much amusing to me to witness Leonardo DiCaprio portraying a bad actor on screen, and how fine a job done! The moment Rick’s director says a cut, he breaks down – be it post him giving a bad shot or a good one. Trying to get his dialogues right, he has an entire sequence of self – confrontation in his room. That act by him well reveals what makes him what he is. Being by his side, Brad Pitt shares wonderful bromance with him on screen. A chauffeur, a stuntman, a cook – Cliff’s there for Rick when needed. The actor perfectly knows how to hold his own too with class, watch out for him in the climax!

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood HD Images

Apart from these two, almost everyone has only an extended cameo – true for Margot Robbie too as Sharon Tate. With a cinematic charm so endearing, she lightens up the frame she is in – especially a sequence that shows Sharon delightfully watching herself on screen inside a theater. The legend Al Pacino has sadly little to do here despite a screen presence so enigmatic. Margaret Qualley’s part feels like a burst of welcome sunshine until things go the other way. Julia Butters has owned some of the best sequences of the movie, that feat. her with Leo. ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ could have been easily shorter than 161 minutes, had Tarantino not got over-indulgent with his narration, alike to what went wrong for The Hateful Eight (2015).

I hope this beautifully written ode to Hollywood is not his last. It is bound to divide the audience as the expected perpetual gruesome action is missing in the movie despite the presence of the rest of the Tarantino elements. This is more of a love letter. This cinematic slow-burner demands your attention. Expect less action and violence, except for the obvious climax.

P.S : A prominent initial sequence in the movie depicts an interview of “Bounty Law” TV show lead Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) with his stuntman Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Where’s the camera that is shooting that interview? Who knows, who cares? This is a Tarantino movie. Just have fun!

Watch its Trailer Here: Once Upon A Time in Hollywood (2019) Trailer – YouTube

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About the author

Siddhartha Singh

Siddhartha is an avid reader and a cinephile who loves to write about movies. Being fascinated by the spell of cinema on and around us, he is always in for experiencing gripping stories told from the lens of different storytellers.

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  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a classic Tarantino with twists, surprises and more.
    It keeps you guessing while wanting more. This is a great movie. It will win many an Oscar.

    George Vreeland Hill