“I’m as real as a doughnut, mother fucker!”Review by Lewis Goodall
Now I need to start this off by taking off my Quentin Tarantino shades. I’m a huge Tarantino fan and consider all of his films masterpieces and honestly huge inspirations (well……. he made Jackie Brown as well but much like everyone else I forgot about that one). I watch his films and they make me want to make films and I don’t really have that effect with other directors. He has this knack for making such intricate stories feel so real and displays them all in a creative and original way. He has yet again knocked it out of the park again with Once upon a time in Hollywood, but it doesn’t come without a couple of strikes.
Once upon a time…. in Hollywood takes place in 1969, the final stages of the golden age of cinema and stars RICK FUCKING DALTON!! (Leonardo DiCaprio) A washed up TV western actor who strives to make it back to the A-list with the help of his stunt double and friend Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Rick, realising that he is becoming the punt of the joke, must navigate the ever changing social system that makes up Hollywood.
Starting off with a cold opening of a featurette of Mr Rick Dalton, star of ‘Bounty Law’, the most talked about show on tv. Displaying acts of his heroism by shooting the bad guys off horses, houses, you name it. Rick Dalton in both the show and the film in general is a fantastic character. Leonardo DiCaprio felt real and was such a fleshed out character that you really grow a bond to him through the films and tv shows he’s made. Weaving in clips from his shows into the story so naturally that you see how Rick Dalton is the best of the best. Leo naturally is gonna give an amazing performance, doesn’t matter what he’s doing, being attacked by bears, making tons of money, being retarded, he can do it all. Watching the idea of becoming washed up take over his mind is portrayed fantastically to see him start to break down by flubbing his lines and flipping out in anger at himself.
Something that Tarantino can do naturally through the screenplay is making the characters so real. From the get go all the characters feel so original. This goes for Brad Pitt’s character as well, Cliff Booth, the down to earth stunt double who’s more of a chauffeur to Rick. From the start of the story you find out that Rick is a drunk and lost his license by crashing outside the front of a night club. The back and forth between Rick and Cliff is typical Tarantino, making just normal conversation so entertaining. On their travels they encounter some hippie chicks (this is 1969 after all) that Cliff takes a bit of a shine to. As the film progresses, so does the bond between those two as she introduces him to her freaky deaky friends who live on an old abandoned movie set.
There are so many different veins to this story and I am in love with how Tarantino can continuously keep it entertaining to show you what’s currently happening in different ways. Whether its using his trademark subtle narration or having it from the perspective of the film that Rick is filming; it continuously manages to keep stirring the mix to keep the flow going without getting repetitive. It’s why I find Tarantino’s films such an inspiration. He continues to make original movies and it’s always so fresh to see when most of the films coming out nowadays are remakes, marvel films or films based on books. Having such an original film, written and directed by the same person is becoming pretty rare (don’t worry Ari Aster, I’m not forgetting you with Midsommar).
On a technical stand point this film can also not be faulted. The different use of camera angles, filters when showing it’s an old timey black and white film. The music is always stunning as it is in every Tarantino flick, he always knows what the best music is to be perfectly places in a scene. Its beautiful, and one of my favourite moments was seeing them have Rick Dalton edited in to original footage of ‘The Great Escape’. I wont give context to this but its incredibly done. The pacing of this film is something that I feel some people may have a problem with. I think people nowadays need action every 5 minutes or they get bored *COUGH* MARVEL FILMS *COUGH* and most of this film is backstory and creating the world of Hollywood. As a whole this film is an ode to spaghetti westerns and I feel the slow pacing is also inspired. In general this film feels more mature than the usual operatic take that he normally has with his films, this one feels more grounded.
Now……………….. its hurts to say but yes I do have problems with this film. One of them is something where you may be thinking “Lewis, you mentioned Leo and Brad but Margot Robbie is in the film too, you haven’t mentioned her yet, are you sexist or something?!”. Well yes Margot is in this film and plays Rick Dalton’s neighbour and is married to a hot shot director at the time. Margot is also incredible in this film, but other than to show off those red hot legs (thank you Tarantino for the close ups), I’m honestly not too sure as to why she was in the film. I said that this films are a lot of veins and I can’t help but feel like some of them just don’t really add anything to the overall experience. The film would’ve been just fine following the adventures of Rick and Cliff but Sharon (who Margot plays) is just kind of there. I do enjoy her parts in the film but at the end I couldn’t help but think at what point she really makes a difference to the film. Now if you don’t want the slightest spoiler for this film then skip to the end of the end of this paragraph, I’ll do main spoilers in it’s own section but the small spoiler I’ll say now to make my point valid is that Sharon doesn’t even make contact with Rick Dalton until the last minute of the film. Other than that they don’t interact with each other, hence my feeling of……..’oh right, okaaaay’.
There was just something missing and its didn’t feel quite right considering so much else of the story is so fleshed out that it seems distracting when branches on this tree don’t really match and it’s the reason I’ve felt really conflicted about what to score this film.
Overall this film is damn close to being alongside Tarantino’s other masterpieces. The whole story is unique and there is so much to talk about with it because it’s so down to earth and feels completely different to any film to been realised of recent years. That’s why people own Tarantino shades because the man is a genius. Its feel like he manages to create a new genre of cinema every time he makes a new film and that’s why he’s such an inspiration. See all his films (apart from Jackie Brown, you’re fine to miss that)
8 Dirty Feet out of 10
So as I mentioned earlier, Brad Pitt falls for a hippie girl. This girl and her friends are part of the Manson Family *Gaaaaasp*. At the end of the film some of the members of this family decide to kill celebrities as they are the ones making violent tv shows. They just so happen to end up at Rick Dalton’s house when him and Cliff are there. Cliff, currently high from an acid dipped cigarette, fights off these three members of the Manson family and kills them. This was the moment I was waiting for, the trademark Tarantino, over the top violence. Maybe I got my hopes up but it felt fairly underwhelming compared to his other films, it was my own fault for having my Tarantino shades on.
This was also another one of the veins that I felt was a bit unnecessary, the whole Manson family being involved felt a bit forced in order to get some violence included into the film. Maybe it was just from my first viewing and I’ll definitely need to watch it again but it felt like it was thrown in just to be in there.