Friday, August 2, 2019

Movie Review: "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" (2019)

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Year: 2019
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 41 minutes

A former TV cowboy/movie star in the twilight of his career strives for one last shot at success in late 1960s Hollywood.

Movie still for Quentin Tarantino's 2019 film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood where Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt talk to each other in a parking lot
"I hired you to be an actor, Rick, not a TV cowboy. You're better than that." (Image Source)
Since we know he's reading our review: Quentin, we challenge you to make a movie that's 80-90 minutes long. Just try it on for size and see how it feels. You might like it. "Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood" is the ninth film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, who is known for the critically acclaimed Oscar-nominated movies "Pulp Fiction," "Inglorious Basterds," and "Django Unchained." It follows a one-time movie star and famous TV cowboy of the early 1960s named Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double/errand boy/best friend Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). It is now the late '60s, 1969 to be exact, and Dalton has been reduced to doing guest spots as villains/heavys on various television shows opposite the hot new stars looking to take his place. Rick hopes to have one final hurrah before fading into obscurity. He also hopes to make a good impression on his new neighbors, a young hotshot director named Roman Polanski, who just had his breakthrough hit in "Rosemary's Baby," and his wife, up-and-coming movie star Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie).
Margot Robbie plays Sharon Tate in a movie still for the 2019 dramatic comedy Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
"I'm Sharon Tate. I'm in the movie." (Image Source)
It's fair to say that we are massive fans of Quentin Tarantino's work. We have enjoyed each and every one of his movies, and "Inglorious Basterds," "Django Unchained," and "Pulp Fiction" would definitely be on a list of our favorite movies of all time. Unfortunately, "Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood" will not be making that list. This isn't the first time we haven't loved a Tarantino film, but it may be the first time in history that we can say we barely even liked it. Tarantino has spent most of his career delivering what are essentially homage films, especially when it comes to the cinema of the 1960s and 1970s. No matter the genre, Tarantino knows how to make a movie, and he sure can write one, too. He has brought his unique visual style to Westerns and samurai flicks, pulp cinema and war epics, gangster films and grindhouse movies. His scripts are full of sharp, witty dialogue, gore galore, and impeccable attention to detail. Two of these three factors are found here. Though it has its fleeting moment of greatness, we thought "Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood" lacked the punchy dialogue we have come to expect from Tarantino's films. As we sat in the theater watching this movie, there were many times when we drifted into near-boredom as the pace meanders just a little too slowly and a little too uneventfully. It's a rambling alternate history character sketch that lacks focus as it trudges along its runtime until the last 15 minutes, which are some of the best in 2019 cinema. The strength of these 15 minutes is not enough to prop up the mediocre show-offery of everything else that came before it. This film is 2 hours and 40 minutes long. It took 80 minutes for anything noteworthy to happen, and there are at least 40 excess minutes that could have been trimmed without changing a single thing. We appreciate the sentiment Tarantino tries to convey about long-faded Hollywood stars, but it just felt too overdone. As weird as it sounds given everything we just said, "Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood" is still not a total waste of time. The costumes, the sets, the soundtrack, the cinematography, and the direction are all fabulous. The performances are phenomenal. Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Margot Robbie (for the few brief moments she's on-screen) are all excellent. We wouldn't be surprised if Pitt and DiCaprio were nominated for Oscars for their work here, and rightfully so. We only wish the material surrounding their work had been better.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood 2019 movie still where Lena Dunham and Margaret Qualley hold hands while talking to Brad Pitt
"I'm as real as a donut, motherfucker." (Image Source)
"Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood" is sure to please film buffs and Tarantino fans alike with its nostalgia, its old Hollywood easter eggs, its meticulous crafting, and its revisionist history. Still, we feel it lacks the signature Q.T. flair and style we've come to love despite having a couple of fantastic scenes and some terrific performances.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 6/10
IMDB's Rating: 8.5/10
RT Rating: 84%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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