Jon Gordon’s review published on Letterboxd:
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is two films, really. One is the film that Tarantino had most fun with: the lazy, baggy, lovingly recreated world of TV and cinema actors in late 60s Hollywood. The recreation of old TV westerns, life on the film lots, drives around the Hollywood hills. It starts like a hang-out movie and seems to be going precisely nowhere for 90 minutes or so - in the best kind of way.
Sharon Tate (played wonderfully by Margot Robbie) is around town and the loose plot is clearly leading to the Manson murders. But it does so by such a circuitous route that you often find yourself just drifting along, enjoying Brad Pitt's charm or DiCaprio's turn as an actor reaching the end of the line as younger, hungrier leading men look set to take his place. It is warm and brilliantly made and Tarantino shows us a good time in the light suffused 60s Californian sun.
Then the film takes a mock documentary turn, the pace increases and the plot kicks in as we are led inexorably towards the Tate murders. This was welcome at the time as it meant the meandering nature of the film never reached a point where it became tiring. It kept the audience rapt and interested.
But, in truth, the brutality and childish glee of the ending itself left me cold. Are we supposed to cheer as the resolutely likeable Pitt character turns into a crazed hippy killer? It is like an adolescent hurrah for the old fashioned virtues of 60s TV actors against the souring counter culture. But surely cinema was just about to sweep away all the old pieties and become as good as it possibly ever was so, as a film fan, this seems like a strange pose for Tarantino.
But that aside, it was just unpleasant. There is always something a bit unpleasant somewhere in any Quentin effort. So much that is exciting and thrilling but also so much that is just eye-rollingly self satisfied.
But it remains a good film. It looks amazing and the performances are warm and inviting. He just got all Tarantino on us at the end, you know?