Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★★★½

Usually slice-of-life films that have no real plot or story to tell, but just show a day-to-day of a handful of characters, are not films I particularly enjoy. But Once Upon a Time in Hollywood thrives in its formlessness; interesting vignettes of Hollywood life. This film is not that type of Tarantino "cool" so many of his films are. It's not the thrilling, electro-charged, go-for-broke mad genius mayhem of Tarantino's best movies, but rather something quieter, more laid back, groovier. Never for a second was I bored—if this movie was just Brad Pitt driving around for 3 hours I would've been satisfied—and in the end, I kind of wished this was a 10-hour mini-series. The type of story-telling employed here, the characters, and the style would've really fitted the mini-series format to paint an even broader picture of this fascinating time-period.

A lot of people found the film boring and too long, but the thought never crossed my mind because I was too busy admiring the craft. For starters, we have a duo of brilliant performances from two of our greatest modern movie stars. DiCaprio and Pitt, who are given roles that play directly to the strengths they do possess. DiCaprio has room to go way over the top playing an actor who is trying to literally act his way out of irrelevance, while Pitt is gifted with a character whose steely, tough guy personality fits him like a glove. Pitt settles into a comfortable groove with Cliff, centered and in control at all times, while adding an unexpected warmth not often seen from this type of character or Pitt himself. It's his best performance in years.

As I have a large interest in the time-period, and over the years garnered plenty of knowledge on the films of that time (as well as the real-life Tate event), I watched the movie unfold in a leisurely, beautifully meandering fashion, with growing apprehension about the third act. The story roams around the events, people, and places involved in the Manson Family Murders of 1969, but we are privy to only glances. While the third act is predictably (for Tarantino) gruesome, sadistic and violent, afterwards I also found it deeply cathartic, closing the film on a final birds-eye long-take that kind of made me tear up in its satisfying beauty. (...trying to not spoil things here)

This is a Tarantino film first and foremost. Everything you come to expect from him is in here in full display—banter, references, feet, violence, profanity, long-ass runningtime, self-indulgence, shocking ending, astounding performances and a killer soundtrack—and you have to take it or leave it. He doesn't really seem to care what the audience might think, he makes the things he wants to make. And with all of the prerequisite and caveats that come with that mindset; it's also something I've come to admire. Another long and in-depth film that mixes plot, flashbacks, fake movies and TV shows, creative edits, and stories-within-stories that effortlessly blend both drama, comedy, and action all in one.

Once Upon a Time... In Hollywood is among the least "exciting" of Tarantino's work. It doesn't have the wild supercharged energy of Kill Bill or the thrilling character dynamics of Pulp Fiction, but that doesn't make it less of a film. It is a mellow affair. A refreshing and wonderful elegy to a lost time. It's a collection of some of the best acted and directed scenes of the past five years. A much needed gift to those of us who still treasure good old-fashioned grown-up entertainment, with plenty to savor afterwards.

I loved it from start to finish, sure there are plenty of little things here and there (in and outside of the film) that bugged me, but overall, I loved it. I could go into detail of all the things I didn't like about it, but I won't do that because there is plenty of dislike surrounding this film on the internet as of late (which quite frankly completely destroyed all my sense of excitement/joy/satisfaction when I left the theater, and that's not something I want to do for others).

P.S. I guess it added to my enjoyment that I saw this film with seven other people and we all enjoyed it greatly (3 older women, 2 older men, and 2 younger men). Afterwards we all went do dinner, continued to discuss this film and its contents. Overall, I had one hell of time.

Added to: Quentin Tarantino – [Ranked]

On: Movies That Made Me Cry

Added to: [2019] – What I’ve Seen – [Ranked]

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