Review – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

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With a career spanning nearly twenty years, across nine films, Quentin Tarantino has cemented himself as one of the most iconic directors in all of cinema history. With four years past from his last release, the director has returned with a slow-burn, character-centric tale of two friends struggling to keep up with a world passing them by.

Set in the winding hills of star-laden Hollywood 1969, we follow veteran actor Rick Dalton and his longtime stuntman/best friend Cliff Booth, as they make their way through an industry that has become unrecognisable. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt play the aforementioned leads respectively, alongside Margot Robbie as real-life starlet Sharon Tate, supported by a huge ensemble.

This is a film with lots of talking. In fact, the end product is practically two and a half hours of dialogue, with some classic Tarantino violence sprinkled in the last fifteen. Thankfully, each word spoken is sublime, as we are shown the deeply interesting arcs of multi-faceted individuals.

Pitt and DiCaprio shine in their roles, delivering each well-written line perfectly. These are two actors at the height of their talent, embodying characters that are both extraordinary and incredibly relatable. Put in situations that most of us will find almost other-worldly, we are still able to feel their honest human emotions. Viewers will understand DiCaprio’s plight especially, depicting many moments of doubt and internal struggle. When it comes to Pitt, his persona may be more exaggerated, but it is the dichotomy of his life and his best friend’s that ties the whole picture together.

While Rick Dalton is playing cowboys on TV, Cliff Booth is out being a real outlaw. At its core, this movie is about their friendship and how their different lives go through similar trials. Mixed in with a version of 60’s Hollywood, this duo is a standout element of what is likely to become a classic Tarantino picture.

When it comes to the technical aspects, the entire film has the expert craftsmanship that we have come to expect from this director. The slow progression works well with the purposeful script, pushing the narrative forward, set to an old-school soundtrack that is the perfect backdrop for the period it is set in. Furthermore, the cinematography by Robert Richardson wonderfully positions us within the many places we visit in Tinseltown.

In what is one of only a few negatives to be found, it must be mentioned that the film does presume some pre-existing knowledge regarding the Manson murders. Reading up on what happened will do viewers a great deal of good, providing them with some context that sadly is limited in the movie. Furthermore, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate does play an important role in the story, and her performance is great, she is somewhat underutilised. However, these issues are small in the grand scheme of things once we look at this entire release as a whole.

Building on an unparalleled track record of success, Quentin Tarantino has once again given us something special. Providing his signature flavour with a pace that refreshingly takes its time, this is one of 2019’s best. With his tenth (and perhaps final) movie up next, there is little doubt that he will knock it out of the park.