Mike’s review published on Letterboxd:
Aside from some pacing issues with the film in the second act, goddamn did I love this film. I mean, GODDAMN!!
I know I probably sound like every first year film student when I say that Tarantino hasn’t made a bad film thus far, but this was just such a great fucking movie. Seeing it in 35mm at an Alamo Drafthouse also helped with the experience, making it feel authentic in a way.
But honesty though, the story to this film is really great. It’s a meditation on getting older and what happens to your relevancy as you age. It’s also about taking risks in Hollywood that could make or break one’s career. The character of Rick Dalton is just so expertly written, he doesn’t feel like a caricature of a certain type of person, he truly feels like he could exist right now. Like most Tarantino films, there are extended scenes of individuals talking to one another and like any other Tarantino film, they’re never boring. Whether it be about ones fading relevancy or just commenting on a television program, the conversations are never dull. The finale of the film is also just perfect, I had a dumbass grin on my face the entire time. This film is definitely also Tarantino’s funniest, with countless scenes being played for laughs. Nearly every few moments the entire theater would roar with laughter, it was the greatest thing.
The cast of this film was honesty one of the strongest things about it. Leonardo DiCaprio was great as the fading Rick Dalton, bringing a kinda burned out behavior to the character. Brad Pitt is also great as Cliff Booth, Rick’s stunt double and really his only friend. The two actors have great chemistry together, with there being many scenes of them riffing off each other. The ensemble cast, whether it be Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate, Kurt Russell as Randy, or Bruce Dern as George Spahn, was also spectacular. There are so many people in this film that it’s hard to keep track of them sometimes, but they all leave their mark on their scenes. I especially liked Margaret Qualley as Pussycat, and thought that she brought a great energy to her role.
This honestly feels like Tarantino’s most personal film to date. In interviews over the years I’ve always heard him talk about the Hollywood of the 1960’s and his admiration of it. Now he finally gets to put it to screen, and it feels like he put a lot of care into recreating this bygone era. Robert Richardson’s cinematography also really helped, capturing the look and feel of the era.
If it’s not clear to you after reading this review, I loved Once Upon a Time in ... Hollywood, and am growing to love it more every minute since leaving the theater. The story feels meditative, but has all of the signature Tarantino beats that make viewers come back to his films after all these years. This is definitely a film to see in the theaters, as with a film like this it just feels right. Also, seeing it on 35mm was a major plus, it adds to the overall aesthetic of the film, and made it one of my favorite trips to the theater.