ONCE UPON A TIME … IN HOLLYWOOD – A Review by Cynthia Flores
Director Quentin Tarantino likes to stand out from the crowd and believes that “Digital projection is the death of cinema”. So instead of using the digital medium most films are made and projected with now he did the 2015 film The Hateful 8 on 70mm film. That was an expensive choice. His new and ninth film Once Upon A Time … In Hollywood was shot and shown on 35mm film giving it that grainy 70s film look. I’d love to see what he could do next for his choice of non-digital film making. Perhaps he will shoot and project on Super 8mm.
In this movie, Quentin Tarantino takes us on a tour of 1969 Los Angeles, where everything is changing. The film mostly revolves around TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his longtime stunt double and friend Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) as they make their way around an industry that may not need them any longer. Cliff is just making due as Rick grapples with his looming irrelevance in the business. Rick was at his height in the black and white TV show Bounty Law playing Jake Cahill a man that dispenses justice in the Old West. It’s much like the real late 50s programs Rawhide and The Rifleman. Now he’s relegated to playing bad guy guest role parts on TV and being asked to do Italian spaghetti westerns by persistent producer Marvin Schwarzs (Al Pacino).
In between telling Rick’s story, the film shows us his new Benedict Canyon neighbors. Director Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) and the ill-fated Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) as well as her famous friends. We get to see them all party at the Playboy Mansion with people like Steve McQueen (Damian Lewis) as he explains the love triangle involving Sharon and her ever-present friend Jay Sebring (Emile Hirsch). Jay was one of the people in real life that was murdered alongside a very pregnant Sharon Tate at her home by the Manson Family. They were a bunch of young hippie types that worshiped Charles Manson (Damon Herriman) at the time. In fact, Cliff has a memorable run-in with the Manson family when he gives Pussycat (Margaret Qualley) a ride to where they are all living. Point here, Margaret Qualley steals every scene she is in and holds her own against Brad Pitt as a flirty, dirty footed flower child trying to seduce Cliff on the ride home.
Everything comes to a head on the infamous evening of August 8th, 1969. Sharon and her friends are back home after dinner out. Rick and Cliff are drunk after a parting dinner celebration. Rick can’t afford to pay for Cliff’s help now that he has brought home an Italian bride. And, the Manson Family has just gotten there to do Charlie’s bidding. If you want to know what happens next, you’ll just have to buy a ticket to see this uneven film.
Why do I say it’s uneven? There are lots of reasons. You have the highs of the fantastic chemistry of Pitt and DiCaprio working together. They reminded me of the cool hang-out vibe of films starring the iconic actors Robert Redford and Paul Newman. They are that good together. They really shine as two world-weary Hollywood friends. Against the low of a blah portrayal of Bruce Lee (Mick Moh) while he’s playing Kato on the set of the Green Hornet. There is a “mano-a-mano” challenge that is not believable. I’m not sure what Tarantino has against the great Bruce Lee or the martial arts he trained people in. But it was laughable at best to have a face-off like that. And then you have the high that is a scene where DiCaprio, as Rick, who is yelling at himself in his trailer for messing up his lines on set. This scene is truly amazing and telling of how hard actors push themselves. But put that against the director’s need to show the dirty bottoms of women’s feet and hairy underarms to prove the film is happening in the late 60s, and you’ve hit another low. Like I said…uneven.
I liked the ending of this film the best and think the movie could have been at least thirty minutes shorter. I give Once Upon A Time … In Hollywood a B- rating.
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Written by Quentin Tarantino
Selig Rating B-
Running Time 2hr 45min
Drama / Comedy
Wide Release July 26th
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Al Pacino
The Selig Rating Scale:
A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
B – Good movie
C – OK movie
D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.