Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) Cover

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood walks the line between deep and dumb like a tightrope. In this slow-burn, character-driven piece, Quentin Tarantino explores the end of the golden years of Hollywood. Despite the heady material, though, it lacks narrative drive as it meanders around while pushing the plot into the background and may bore those who aren’t invested in the stars behind the late ’50s and ’60s tinsel town magic.

“Just be warned that the film moves slowly and when it bursts into action the violence is brutal.”

The directing is on point as Tarantino has easily produced one of his most finely crafted films. He doesn’t have a large directing filmography, but it is one with a high bar. The pacing and tone are uneven, though. Patient viewers will love the careful build of tension from scene to scene; but, even for me, it felt slow and the tone changes came off as extreme.

My feels get complicated because I cannot outright call these elements flawed. These are clear stylistic choices that have a meaningful effect, and they are in character for Tarantino’s work, so many viewers will be completely prepared to live with… or even outright enjoy the style. Just be warned that the film moves slowly and when it bursts into action the violence is brutal.

Outside of the pure construction of the film, the music and acting are both absolutely on point. There’s not a single person who drops the ball here, but both Leonardo DiCaprio (as Rick Dalton) and Brad Pitt (as Cliff Booth) deliver outstanding performances. Each of them gives a performance that gets you completely invested in their character. From moment to moment you cannot help but care about where they’re going and what they’re doing.

The writing is clever, I’m just not entirely sure how smart it is. Tarantino is saying something with this film, but it’s difficult to say exactly what that is or whether or not it’s meaningful. Most of the entertainment to be had is from the wit of the dialog as the story itself lacks momentum. Tarantino even seems to be aware that he’s created characters that are more interesting than the story as he pushes the major plot elements into the background. The story sort of gently unfolds until it blossoms in the last five minutes or so, but it does so with so much violence that I was put off of the climax.

Moreover, the movie lacks a journey home after it peaks and ends without any sense of returning home. After it all, I’m not entirely sure if the film is profoundly deep or deceptively shallow. It certainly feels like it has something to say, but I’ve been fooled before. Be warned that how you appreciate the movie will depend heavily on how much you know about it before going in, so I would highly recommend not reading or watching anything about the plot of the movie that isn’t in the trailers before seeing it.

Most audiences will be torn over the pacing and tone. If you’re prepared for a nice slow burn with just one or two intensely violent and thoroughly brutal peaks, then you’ll love Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’s clever writing, talented acting, and compelling music. That said, I think a lot of people will struggle with this one.

Final Verdict:No TL/DR on this one, you should read the whole review.
Rating:B