California Dreamin’ | ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD – Review

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"California Dreamin’ | ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD – Review"
Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Al Pacino in ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD | © SONY Pictures 2019

Love him, or hate him, you can’t ignore him. As one of the most unique and controversial filmmakers of our time, Quentin Tarantino has made it a point to make sure all his films stand out. Are they self-indulgent and over-the-top? Sure. They’re not meant for everyone. But that’s the fun when enduring one of his films. Through the years he’s rattled a lot of cages. Not only among audiences around the globe, but the industry itself. However, confidence allows him to fight off criticism, and clout allows him to continue working. Never steering away from who he is, or what’s inspired him, when it comes to style, build-up, uniqueness, dark humor, edge, violence, dialogue, boldness and women’s feet… QT is in a class all on his own.

In his latest, Tarantino’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD displays 1969 Los Angeles, where everything is changing, as TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) maneuver themselves around an industry they hardly recognize anymore, along with the misfits who now run the show. The ninth film from the writer-director features a large ensemble and several intertwined storylines in a tribute to the final moments of Hollywood’s golden age.

Considering everything that goes on in this film, it’s a little difficult to talk about it, without talking about it. (If that makes any sense.) It’s a lot to digest. With ONCE UPON A TIME, Tarantino continues to evolve (in his own way) and without a doubt will keep people talking. While the movie has all sorts of Tarantinoish hallmarks, his ninth film clearly places cross-hairs among a trippy era with a style that inspired and helped him mold his art form. Overall, it’s original, provides fresh characters, and it’s executed in a way that generates a mood of grit and glamour.

Margot Robbie in ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD | © SONY Pictures 2019

That being said, I’m not really sure how I feel about it. Taking into consideration his previous titles with direct plots, there’s a void of sorts. The film isn’t necessarily “empty,” but it does make you wonder. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it, either. I enjoyed elements of it. There is pizzazz to this piece. Due to the fact that there’s so much going on, the film feels like it’s all over the place. Therefore, I’ll need to let this marinate in my brain a little more. Maybe even watch it again to sort out what it was I found myself drawn to…

The main attraction to the film are its leads. What makes this film special is watching DiCaprio and Pitt play off each other. Filled with cool vignettes, alongside build-up scenes, the stars carry the movie for about more than half way through before pieces of its twisted climax starts piecing itself. And as usual, once we’re there, we’re there! It’s a brutal sendoff, with what’s probably one of the most cynically hysterical endings to any of his films, I can honestly say I didn’t feel fleeced. At a run of two hours and forty-one minutes, ONCE UPON A TIME has quite a few scenes and characters that really wouldn’t have meant much had they not been around. I enjoyed its premise and approach upon Hollywood in the ’60s as it surfed a wave of sinister unawareness and buildup among the Manson family. Nice twist. But I can’t say I was as engaged as I’ve been with his previous titles.

It’s stylish and unique and has a groovy soundtrack, yet a bit incoherent and too long. Personally, I don’t think it’s one of his best, nor his worst. However, the film will generate attention and respect. It’s different from all the overblown, CGI-laced stuff that’s been released the last couple of months, so, for that alone there’s an appreciation. 


Grade: B / Genre: Drama, Mystery, Comedy / Rated: R / Run Time: 2:41

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margo Robbie, Kurt Russell, Al Pacino, Dakota Fanning

Directed by Quentin Tarantino

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© SONY Picture 2019