Aidan Fealy’s review published on Letterboxd:
The first note I'd like to start with on 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood' (henceforth referred to as OUaTiH), is the tone. The lump-sum of the tone throughout this flick captures that ever-distinguishable Tarantino flavor, but with a noticeably atypical hint of realism and groundedness. This also plays a bit into my only complaint about 'OUaTiH', which I'll get into later, but the self-awareness from beginning to end is something I'm a fan of.
Cinematography-wise, I can't overstate how much I appreciated Tarantino's celebration of film. Obviously this is a common theme through his body of work, but with 'OUaTiH' in particular, it really feels like he gathered his thoughts on what exactly the cinema does for a viewing audience, then proceeded to put it all on display. The colors, the camera movement, the staging/blocking, and the film-within-a-film all came together to make something truly memorable here.
The casting and performances were nice, but not perfect. Obviously Brad and Leo share the screen nicely, though there were at least a few times I found myself hoping for a little more opportunity for Brad to flex. Similarly, it was nice to see Kurt again, but the narration scattered throughout felt mostly superfluous. Lena Dunham absolutely belongs in a Tarantin-verse, particularly one including a Manson-mafia. Dakota Fanning did an excellent job. And while I could've definitely used more of a showcase from Margot, I'm glad she found a home in this script anyway. Also, Pacino was SO watchable. Margaret Qualley stood out to me, she used her screen time well.
I think my only problem with this whole film was the lack of the usual Tarantino banter. So many of his movies has a vernacular all their own, setting them apart from competition with wordy speeches and that 'I just love to hear myself talk' sort of cadence. The glimpses weren't enough, and made a lot of 'OUaTiH' feel like a departure from his usual work in a way that left me wanting.
Is it fair to say that this movie had many of the accomplishments and production value of a big box-office smash, with the attention-to-detail of a passion project? Nearly every frame of 'OUaTiH' was so well taken care of, it's astounding.
My favorite part of this film is the Cliff/Rick kinship developed throughout. These two are somehow, despite themselves and the odds against them, a nice little depiction of male camaraderie. Cliff supports and pep-talks Rick, and Rick stands up for Cliff when he's otherwise slandered. Cliff does his part to keep the Rick train on the rails, while Rick does his part to keep Cliff in the money whenever possible. They share each other's lives and mutually recognize the vulnerability required to maintain it. Beyond the fact that I think the two are an illustration of a realistically flawed male duo, I think it's equally illustrative of the fact that Tarantino is adjusting nicely with the times.
Some other key takeaways:
-Leo's trailer freakout
-the last act is a b a n g e r
-about time someone brings a Hal Needham-esque character to life.
-Leo and the young'n Julia Butters had great chemistry
-Never enough Scoot McNairy
-Cliff/Bruce fight was amazing, but there was a weird choreography cut at the car-dent and I wanted to see every frame.
-the acting chops required of that girl who ran around flailing her arms and screaming bloody murder should never be undersold. She committed.
-Cliff parkouring to the rooftop was awesome, as was his driving
-how tf did they do that 'Great Escape' coverage? Also that young Steve McQueen (Damien Lewis) was spot on.