This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Perry Cononge’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
That’s not a word I often use to describe my movie going experiences, but Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood was nothing if not cathartic.
This makes it four into my Quentin Tarantino filmography, and despite how different it is considering his normal style, that doesn’t make it any worse. Quite the contrary, with a focus more on characters and dialogue over violence, this lends it to be an almost more mature film than what one normally expects of the ‘ole QT.
For about 99% of this film, it’s basically one character talking to another character. And if that sounds like a boring time at the theater, I couldn’t disagree more. I didn’t want to tear my eyes from the screen at any point in time (despite the fact that I had to get up twice to pee). I wanted to know what was going to happen next, and often what happened next was two people talking about any number of things. You’ll hear all sorts of interesting conversations watching this film that range from method acting to loyalty as a friend. There are (shockingly) long, unbroken takes of people just taking back and forth as if it were a play, and it was the most fascinating thing I think I’ve witnessed all year at the theater.
There’s a ton here about the actual craft of making a film that I found highly interesting, too. The parts where Leo’s Rick Dalton forgets his lines were awesome, especially the take where the camera literally went back to its starting point.
It’s style that makes me love Quentin Tarantino so much, and there’s style out the yahoo in this movie. The look of LA has never been more 60’s. The constant radio playing in the background while characters drove their cars was positively groovy. Costumes were perfect, the interior decoration of houses and sets was exceptional, the whole look and feel was positively soaked in everything that made that decade so cool. It’s apparent that that particular era was so important to QT. The reverence that he pays to all aspects of it, especially towards Sharon Tate, was quite admirable, and ultimately added to the likeability factor.
It’s kind of weird to see a Quentin Tarantino movie with such a muted sense of, well, Quentin Tarantino. Sure, there’s an absolute glut of shots of women’s feet, as one comes to expect, as well as his trademark profanity and dialogue, but the film is remarkable restrained in regards to violence. There is literally one scene of explosive violence, of which I’ll get into more later. It’s ever so slightly disappointing, mostly because I have a bloodlust and Tarantino makes violence look so fun. So yes, that made me a little sad to have so little of the over the top bloody carnage that I’ve come to expect, but what brutality is there is truly breathtaking.
The three main performances are uniformly perfect. It’s definitely my favorite Margo Robbie performance I’ve seen to date. To me, Robbie has always just been the sex kitten type character in almost every role leading up to this. But she was so sweet and likeable here, it was a real treat to finally be able to enjoy her beauty in conjunction with a performance that I really liked from her. Leo’s return to acting is phenomenal as well. Far more emotional than I was originally expecting with way more depth, but also laced with tons of humor too. To see him yell at himself over his alcoholism was truly hysterical. My personal favorite performance from DeCaprio will probably always be from The Revenant, but he comes pretty damn close to toping that here. But if you’ve read any of my reviews, you know that I am an absolute sucker for Brad Pitt. He’s tied for my favorite actor of all time, and he keeps on proving to me exactly why he’s so good. He’s above and beyond my favorite part of the movie. Cool as ice, but with a wicked streak to him that you can just tell simmers on the surface, just waiting to eek out.
Which leads me to the section I’ve been wanting to talk the most about: the scene at the end with the Mason murderers. Ho. Le. Shit. One of the most satisfying scenes I’ve seen all year, perhaps one of my favorite scenes to a film in the past five years. QT masterfully builds and builds tension over the course of the film until finally we have a moment of brutality so pure, so joyous that as soon as I got home from the theater, I pulled up the scene again on YouTube and watched it three times through terrible 120p footage just to get a sense of giddiness again. Those awful people got the ending we all wish they could have gotten in reality. Truly, my heart was beating like crazy with all the built up tension, and to have it literally explode off the screen was fist-pumpingly fantastic. I probably won’t see anything more awesome than watching Brad Pitt smash that evil killer’s face in over and over and over again. Plus he gets that great face mangling throw in, and a good old head stomp in for good measure, Jesus, I’m getting the tingles just thinking about it. God, everything Brad Pitt does in this film is so badass.
It is a shame to see pretty much every other character be reduced to an almost cameo length in terms of screen time, but I understand why it is that way. It just would have been nice to see Bruce Lee or Kurt Russell’s character incorporated more. And I thought it was weird in the couple of moments throughout the film where there were cuts that felt ripped straight out of an episode of Family Guy. (Those of you who have seen the film will know exactly the parts I’m talking about).
But that’s literally all I can complain about. The lengthy runtime absolutely flew by and I was sad to have to leave this incredible film. It’s probably the best thing I’ve seen in theaters all year.