Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★★½

Quentin Tarantino's ninth directed and eighth best film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood manages to be both his most brilliantly slight work since Jackie Brown and his most over-indulgent film since...ever?

With a runtime just short of three hours, Tarantino analyzes the notion of celebrity for the very first time and comes away without as much to say as you might expect for a director who has built out a career out of his obsession with Hollywood's past.

Once Upon a Time lingers and lingers, giving way to an explosive, enjoyable but oddly predictable finale. I found myself liking the movie most in its first two acts when it slowly wandered around TV show sets, analyzed the tech of neon street signs and had Sharon Tate (by way of Margot Robbie) react to her own role in 1968's The Wrecking Crew in an afternoon matinee.

Things played for laughs in the trailer play much better in the movie. Leonardo DiCaprio's Rick Dalton had more depth than I expected, his constant breakdowns providing the proceedings with some necessary emotional weight. Brad Pitt's Cliff Booth is enchantingly subdued and unbelievably problematic. He's channeling De Niro's stoned out performance in Jackie Brown and I'm personally very here for it despite how uncomfortable I felt with his character flexing on Mike Moh's Bruce Lee. Robbie's Sharon Tate only gets one true sequence all to herself, I'd describe her lack of screen time and development as the movie's most glaring flaw.

By the time the movie gets to violent cacophony of the Manson murders, the outcome feels like an afterthought to everything that came beforehand. I felt like I was meant to leave feeling satisfied but I walked away with a craving for another fifteen minutes or so to reach a fuller conclusion. I'll need to see this multiple times to get a more developed take but for now I'll say even a lesser Tarantino flick is better than most director's outputs on their absolute best day.

Random notes from my screening:

- This was a free early screening ticket that I got for seeing Jackie Brown in theaters last week.

- A lightning bug got into the theatre early on and flickered on and off throughout the movie. I kept trying to think of something profound to say about its presence in my review but ultimately couldn't think of anything. That felt oddly fitting.

Viewed at The Plaza in Atlanta, GA.

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