Once Upon a Time in Hollywood review
In the age where digital streaming from Netflix and Amazon are filling entertainment voids, where are movies leading. Many people have argued that major studios are relying too much on established properties be either continued or remade. I can see where their coming from as these are not only likely to make money, but big money. It used to be that an original movie was made, and that over time, people would come back to so often that it would set a long term probability. If Netflix and Amazon has taught us anything is that their shows like Stranger Things and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel can also obtain long term popularity. So why can't movies do something similar?
A lot of it has to do that major studios have fallen behind on what it means to be popular. It's good to see that some filmmakers have not succumbed to this mindset. In fact, Quentin Tarantino is very open about rejecting that way a lot of movies and TV shows are made. He's clearly a man who loves the craft and how movies used to made, whether he's doing tributes to martial arts, grindhouse, or exploitation movies. Movies like Once Upon a Time in Hollywood make me more grateful for Tarantino.
In 1969 in the fading light of the golden era of Hollywood, western star Rick Dalton (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) is lambasting that his career is already on the way out, as most of his roles are of Western TV shows like Bounty Law. His best friend and stunt double Cliff Booth (played by Brad Pitt) hangs with him and even has a second job as his driver. The two talk about the changing state of the industry, along with Dalton's alcoholism that seems to be harming his career.
Dalton lives next door to rising film director Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate (played by Margot Robbie) who all represent the new blood incoming to the industry. Regardless, Dalton takes what he can get and gets casted as another villain to a pilot western called Lancer. Since he couldn’t get stunt double work on that same show, Booth picks up a girl and he gives her a lift to Spahn Ranch owned by the blind and senile George Sphan (played by Bruce Dern), unaware it's also home to the Manson Family.
For spoiler reasons, I don't want to give the rest away. Though that would be hard too as Once Upon a Time in Hollywood doesn't really have a story. But that's typical of a Tarantino movie…and this also makes for another fun movie. It's clear that Tarantino holds their period of Hollywood close to his heart. This may be the first movie from him where the environment plays a character itself as the main cast will wonder around where the plot takes them, and yet none of it felt boring. Whether it was Sharon Tate's home, a western studio or the Sphan Ranch, it all has personality that plays a different effect on these characters. An aging star could feel out of place while a Manson family member has more control.
Speaking of which, both Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt make a great team thanks to their chemistry and good dialogue. Both actors have worked with Tarantino before, but never together. But both also have the kind of chemistry that's lacking in a lot of new talent in current Hollywood. It's hard to explain, but the best way is that you take your eyes off of either actor as they each have their turn at exploring a part of 1969 Los Angeles.
Whether or not this is Tarantino's best movie is debatable. It's not heavy on action (go watch Kill Bill or Inglorious Bastards for that), but it's dialogue and scenes are fun to watch and listen to. This is whyOnce Upon a Time in Hollywood belongs in the same category as Pulp Fiction; where it's more about where these characters are going and what their doing. They aren’t as flashed out and original as Pulp Fiction, but I was still happy with these Hollywood-types taking stage. It's like seeing an old-fashioned gossip magazine from my parents closet come to life.
I'll give this five western TV show advertisements out of five. Be sure to get comfy as the movie is well over two and a half hours. As I said, it's never boring, and offers an environment that's so rich in detail, that'll it warrant rewatches just off of that. The fact it's also a fun movie is the cherry on the top. Go see it and have an old fashioned ball.