Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★★★★

"We kill the people who taught us to kill."

In the past few months, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood slowly but surely became my most hyped cinema visit of 2019. I looked forward to its UK release with much anticipation, making an effort to re-watch Tarantino's previous work and discover the older movies that inspired this one. So when I sat down last night in a packed theatre to finally see it, just know that I had some sky-high expectations.

And the film actually surpassed them.

Obviously I'm still on a massive high right now, but honestly, this has to be one of my favourite Tarantino movies. Top 3 easily. It's an ecstatic combination of everything I've ever loved about his oeuvre up until this point: the emotional warmth of Jackie Brown, the nifty referentiality of Pulp Fiction, the perverse humour of Django Unchained, and the jubilant revisionism of Inglourious Basterds. It's all here, beautifully balanced.

Leonardo DiCaprio handles his mood swings very well (there's more than a hint of bipolar disorder to Rick Dalton), and Margot Robbie is even more endearing than normal as Sharon Tate. The rest of the ensemble is terrific too, from the Manson girls led by Margaret Qualley to Mike Moh as Bruce Lee (depicted more impartially than you might imagine, in my opinion). But Brad Pitt, man. He owns this goddamn show. Equal parts charming and dangerous, Cliff Booth comfortably ranks alongside Butch Coolidge and King Schultz as one of Tarantino's most fascinating male protagonists. He's exactly the kind of "problematic" character who's designed to launch a thousand think pieces, and that's kind of why I love him so much.

What else? The production design is dazzling, and is practically guaranteed to win several awards. There's a bunch of gratifying easter eggs I spotted, and probably twice as many I didn't notice (stay during the end credits, by the way). The editing is solid throughout, and Tarantino's various long takes were an unexpected bonus. The soundtrack is sixty different kinds of awesome. And it has a climax for the ages - one that sent my whole audience into an uproar. The only complaint I have is that Kurt Russell's narration at the start of act three began to feel unnecessary, but I'll probably get used to it on repeat viewings.

Aside from one quibble though, this was as perfect a cinematic experience as anyone could hope for. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is an unparalleled joy from the first frame to the last, and I genuinely cannot wait to watch it again. Were Tarantino to scrap plans for a tenth and final film, this would be an especially affecting note to end his career on.

"You're a good friend, Cliff."
"I try."

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