Austin Burke’s review published on Letterboxd:
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is an unexpected ride all the way through. As someone who was expecting a film that goes (thoroughly) off the rails at points (in a good way); I was pleasantly surprised to find a subdued/calm story that showcases incredible control from its director. Tarantino takes his time to flesh out multiple stories that (mostly) come together to tell an extremely interesting narrative. Whereas his other movies bring together stories to pursue an end goal, this film has to wrap up its stories in a different way. It feel less Tarantino(ish) and more like a classic Hollywood tale (in that regard). More than any other movie I have seen this year; the script commands your attention and never lets you go. It’s hard not to do this with a cast so stacked but it was also surprising to see who got what amount of screen time.
Of course Leo is going to blow everyone away as he plays this actor playing an actor. His emotional showcase is one for the books and it feels like he is showing off in every single scene. While Leo dominates, Pitt may have stolen the entire film for me. He is cool, calm and collected throughout the entire thing. His (lonely) driving scenes had more personality to them than most movies I have seen this year. That brings me to the striking cinematography and color correction. These shots were full of life. It felt like every time the camera needed to focus on something important, it did exactly what I would have done with that specific shot. The movements were so crisp and they did nothing but exemplify the emotion from the story. You all know I love a good story about friendship and that is a good chunk of this film as well.
This bromance is one for the ages and it does nothing but put a smile on your face every time they appear on screen together. Robbie is great as Tate but her story is the one that gets left in the dust. It is important and you understand why they spend so much time on certain things towards the end; but it still leaves you scratching your head as to why they didn’t utilize her more. Also, (random fact) the “foot” shots are more prevalent here than they have been in awhile. The best aspect is how he managed to capture the time period so well. It was a peek into this Tarantino-built world featuring so many fascinating characters. It all comes down to the dialogue. The script is easily the best of the year. Although, the story could have been trimmed and the middle almost slows to a halt.
It still kept my attention and features some top notch performances; but it started to derail the momentum a bit. Some will see this as a self-indulgent attempt to bring the 60’s to life (in the way Tarantino wants to do it). I completely understand why someone would feel that way, or just not see the point in the film entirely. It does feel more like a “combination of stories” than I anticipated but they were all so engaging. Overall, this is unlike anything else you will see this year. Movies like this aren’t made anymore. Tarantino plays by his own rules here and does things far differently than anyone else would do them. It’s an unconventional film that may not play well with some mainstream audience members. If you allow yourself to be swept away, you may love it just as much as I did. I loved this experience and can’t wait to see the movie again.