Once Upon A Time In Hollywood reminded me an awful lot of The Green Book. There were elements in both releases that I liked a great deal (for example, individual performances). Both releases certainly had their issues. In the end, it was hard to articulate how I felt about each piece. Is it possible to like certain elements in a film but not necessarily love the overall piece? I think so, and it’s imperative as critics that we acknowledge that to anyone who takes their time to read our review. As they saying beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What may work for some in a film might not work for others.
Anyone going into ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ has to understand a couple of things. For starters, this film is quite a departure from what we are used to seeing from writer/director Quintin Tarantino. His 9th film is a love letter to Hollywood in the form of a pseudo fairy tale (rife with revisionist history). We follow the careers of Rick Dalton (Leo Dicaprio) and his stuntman Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Dalton is a star whose arrow seems to be pointing in the wrong direction these days. Booth acts like more of his assistant than just your ordinary stuntman. We also follow the rise of Sharon Tate (Yes, that Sharon Tate played by Margot Robbie) and we learn rather quickly that she lives next door the Dalton. They are destined to meet as well as interact with some of Hollywood’s most notorious celebrities and eventual serial killers.
What I did love about the film was the performance of Dicaprio. I thought his portrayal of Rick Dalton was just dynamite and yet another reminder of why he’s one of the best actors in the world. His performance perfectly captured the neuroses of a high profile actor in Hollywood. Pitt was fine enough, but nothing about what he did in the film stood out to me. Robbie’s portrayal of Sharon Tate did stick with me but for probably the wrong reason. I felt for someone who had an integral role to play in the film; we did not see her nearly enough. I did, however, love Marget Qualley’s portrayal of Pussycat (a member of the Manson Clan).
The cinematography was stellar (like most of Tarantino’s projects), and the soundtrack is undoubtedly second to none as well. What I wasn’t a fan of was the pacing in the film. There were points in the movie that seemed to drag, which immediately snapped out of this universe that they had created. Even the interactions with Cliff at the ranch with the Manson group seemed a bit indulgent. By including all of the extraneous moments from the screenplay, it tends to cause the overall piece to lose focus. While I understood why Quentin Tarantino made Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, there was little purpose behind these story arcs (Dalton, Booth’s, and Tate’s).
Overall, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is undoubtedly well made (as was The Green Book), but that doesn’t it’s a home run (far from it). However, the good does outweigh the bad, making it certainly worthy of your time.