Gary Cruise’s review published on Letterboxd:
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is the ninth film from Quentin Tarantino and follows a faded television actor and his stunt double who strive to achieve fame and success in the film industry during the final years of Hollywood's Golden Age in 1969 Los Angeles.
I was a little nervous going into this movie after reading some mixed reviews on it but when the credits began to roll I could happily breathe a sigh of relief. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood exceeded my expectations and then some. We live in an age where a lot of cinema is based around remakes, sequels and adaptations but Quentin Tarantino has released a bold, fresh and important piece of cinema that stands proudly on it’s own as a refreshing yet beautiful piece of cinema. This is by far Tarantino’s most mature film. It’s wildly different to his other movies yet oddly familiar at the same time. This movie includes the least amount of violence and swearing I’ve seen in any Tarantino movie and the story also feels very original. Which isn’t to say this movie is without it’s references because it’s not, in fact, it’s filled to the brim with nods to 60s Hollywood and Italian cinema; it’s like one big Tarantino love letter to cinema. He continues to reference obscure cult movies that general cinemagoers might not be familiar with and therefore giving them access to a wider range of movies that they wouldn’t necessarily think twice about any other time. With that being said, the mixed reviews are understandable, if you’re going into this looking for classic Tarantino, you’ll be disappointed, if you go into this expecting something new from the beloved director that takes its time telling a captivating story whilst paying homage to it’s inspirations then you’re in for a treat.
This movie has three of the most likeable characters I’ve seen in a movie in a while. Leonardo DiCaprio is magnificent as faded actor Rick Dalton. Rick is a character with so many layers to him; just when you think you’ve figured him out, he shows another side to the character. Throughout the movie, DiCaprio goes on an emotional rollercoaster and takes the audience along with him for every step of the journey. He goes from being hilarious in certain scenes to earning a great deal of sympathy during the scenes in which he realises he’s not quite the respected actor he once was. DiCaprio’s chemistry with Brad Pitt’s Cliff Booth is incredibly believable as the two bounce off one another without a slight bit of hesitance. Pitt’s performance is phenomenal and is by far one of my favourite roles of his. There were many points where I just wanted to find out more and more about his story. Cliff is just a nice guy plain and simple, he always does the right thing and thinking about others. He’s also an absolute badass when he needs to be which is proven most during his hilarious yet short fight sequence with Mike Moh’s Bruce Lee. Whilst this is clearly Rick and Cliff’s movie, Margot Robbie is a scene stealer in her role as actress Sharon Tate. Sharon received her own bits of story told separately from the main Rick and Cliff story and I just wanted to see more and more of her. Robbie really was incredible in the role and made the character based on a real life actress so loveable in every scene she was in.
Whilst it doesn’t include as much violence as the standard Tarantino movie, it does include a short punch to the gut sequence of blood and gore that is so out of nowhere and in turn, so effective. It includes a fantastic nod to Dario Argento’s Deep Red that managed to put a massive grin on my face. The entire sequence is so over the top and fun that you wouldn’t believe it’s part of the same slow burning movie you’ve been watching until this point but it really does work so damn well and was just about enough to feel like a satisfying bit of action. The suspense building up to this scene and another scene in particular is almost unbearable and just left me craving a horror movie from Tarantino. This movie does take advantage of the Manson Family Murders that would’ve been taking place around the same time as this movie takes place but it doesn’t do it too much to the point that it makes it a Manson movie and I’m glad because that’s not what this was meant to be. The cinematography in this movie is stunning, this movie looks beautiful. The 60s feeling has been absolutely nailed thanks to the glorious costume designs, locations, set piece and various inserts of movies from the era this movie is set in. The soundtrack helps the 60s feeling along a great deal too providing a classic Tarantino jukebox of excellent songs that compile to create one of the best Tarantino soundtracks in a while.
Overall, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a prime example of why I love Tarantino so much. Yet again he’s taken his love of movies and used it to create another masterpiece that looks and sounds beautiful as it tells a brilliant story using his own take on real life icons from the film industry as well as his brand new loveable characters. This movie proves that the well respected movie loving director still has plenty of life still left in him to provide the world with more outstanding movies.
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