Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★★

I feel very alone on this one, seeing everybody’s reviews and scores, but I have to be honest, I was sadly underwhelmed with Tarantino’s new project. I want to say that I was subject to perhaps the worst audience member I have ever seen in a theatre ever, and there were numerous times where his loud vocal reactions to the film/chatter with his friends, as well as his texting and photographing of the film was incredibly distracting and annoying. I am unsure of how much this tainted the film for me. I suspect not enough to drastically change my opinion on the film, but perhaps a little bit. I don’t know. Maybe I just feel like giving an excuse and providing an unnecessary justification of my stance on the film because I feel alone pretty alone on this one lol. 

To start with some positives, the performances are really great. Brad Pitt and Leo obviously steal the show and each have some really memorable moments. Their mannerisms, accents, and dialogue are all really great and there is a lot to admire and be entertained by in their performances. The last 20-30 minutes of the film are incredibly satisfying. I will avoid speaking on why, due to spoilers, but the ending is pretty awesome. The soundtrack is expectedly really groovy and it does a good job of selling the setting. The costuming and production design are all admirable. There are scenes where current actors are placed into older films and they are rendered pretty excellently and it was a fun thing to watch. The movie is obviously well-directed, some sequences are very well shot, the dialogue is well-written, etc.

Quite honestly, what I would say about this film is that it just isn’t very satisfying at all, for me. I know that’s kind of a broad statement, but there are genuinely just very few scenes to me that are satisfying or fully enjoyable in terms of character, character chemistry, style, form, tone, narrative, emotion, theme, etc. To me, the film meanders painfully for quite a bit of its runtime. I have no issue with films with no plot, in fact lots of my favourite films have no real plot, however this film lacked anything very gripping, thematically substantive, stylistically pleasing, or tonally/emotionally effective to warrant the aimless direction of the narrative. To be clear, I am not saying the film lacked these things entirely, but I felt relatively starved of each most of the time. In nearly every Tarantino film there is always such an exciting sense of progression, tension, or conflict, and I don’t think directors should only work one way, but Tarantino essentially divorcing from this usual constant sense of excitement and progression for much of the runtime didn’t succeed in my eyes. I would be fine with the films episodic structure if there were a theme that was being communicated to me strongly, effectively, or interestingly, or even if what we were seeing was that entertaining or stylish. Granted, there is a lot you can say about this film thematically, in terms of success, career, stardom, Hollywood, but none of it feels very new, refreshing, bold, interesting or important. It wasn’t anything new thematically, which is totally fine, but Tarantino doesn’t do anything that I found to be very interesting with these familiar themes and his usual proclaimed love of cinema. It was just a bunch of seemingly narratively-aimless and thematically-hollow vignettes of these peoples lives and the entertaining factor as well as the felt significance of each varies pretty drastically. 

A major disappointment is that Leo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters not only barely have any screen-time together, but their chemistry is also sadly lacking. The script has some charming moments of friendship, but it is not translated into the film very well at all, to me. The film does a good job of literally telling us that these guys are great friends, but the weight and emotional importance of their friendship is hardly felt in the sadly and surprisingly mediocre chemistry of the characters and my belief of their friendship isn’t justified given how ineffectively it is illustrated in terms of the friendships screen-time and dynamics. The film feels messy with oddly placed flashbacks that go on for too long, with chuckle-worthy punchlines at best that don’t, in my opinion, justify the long-winded detours. Not only that, but the focus will occasionally shift to other characters, and these scenes feel totally unnecessary and are painfully uninteresting. Margot Robbie did a great job I thought for how her character was written in a very stereotypical kind of way, but I didn’t really get anything out of the scenes with just her character other than Tarantino showing us how much he loves film and film culture. There is also some incredibly distracting and unnecessarily (in my opinion) choppy editing in a few scenes.

Thats all I am going to say for now. I will be seeing the film again with hopefully a better audience and perhaps my mind will change on the film a bit now that I know what to expect. I don’t know though. Truthfully not looking forward to it, as I was admittedly pretty bored while watching most of this. Not sure what rating I am going to settle on but its around a

57-65% for me rn. Im ready to be attacked and told that I am wrong. Id love feedback and discussion and can clarify things more specifically if anything was somewhat unclear. Eager to talk about this one with yall. As you can see, I have it at a 2.5 for now, but this could easily and likely raise to a 3 because there is some pretty great stuff in the third act.

Oh yeah, and something a letterboxd friend user named <Todd> mentioned that I agree with: "My only problems are length and Tarantino's clear desire to taunt women and, randomly, Bruce Lee."

Idk if I completely agree on the women part, but yeah Tarantino did kind of weirdly seem to be mocking/making a joke out of Bruce Lee and it did admittedly feel bizarre. I'm not like a big Bruce Lee fan or anything, nor do I have an issue with making fun of deceased figures, but it felt really cheap, unnecessary, out of place, random, and not that funny.

Edit: 65%. I think the third act justifies a 3-star

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