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The point of this movie isn't to be just like Pulp Fiction and tell stories that have no meaning. In fact, I would argue that Tarantino wants each and every story to have a meaning. Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a faded action star struggling to hold onto his career and fame. Every scene he was in was enjoyable, as he internally argues with himself to be better than he is. He can't find work except for as a typecast villain, and turns down an offer to go overseas initially because he thinks it's too far a step down from his past career. Dalton's story was not as fun to me as his stunt double, Cliff Booth's (Brad Pitt), but I will get to that in a minute. Dalton's story, some will say, was boring, overdrawn, and pointless. I say it was the most important and interesting storyline in the movie. Rick is an alcoholic, and deals with a lot of anger towards himself, particularly in his trailer (you'll see what I mean), and the long scenes showing him act out his part as the villain in the western are extremely entertaining as DiCaprio does some brilliant work letting us see Dalton as an actor without losing touch with him by slipping into acting of his own. He finally decides to go overseas, but most of that time is spent in a montage. When he returns, he dons a new Italian wife and an entirely new fashion straight from Europe. He doesn't do much towards the end, except for burn a manson follower alive in his pool, and then he finally becomes friends with his neighbors. I'll also get to that when I talk about Sharon Tate. Rick is representative of Hollywood at the time of 1969, and unless you are familiar with film history, that will be lost on you. In 1969 movies like Easy Rider, Bonnie and Clyde, and The Graduate were changing the face of Cinema by eroding censorship codes and finally getting the studios to hand the reigns to directors, thus entering the age of auterism. Actors like Rick were becoming absolete in film for a number of reasons, but mainly that they hadn't had to search for work whilst under the studio system, they just signed a contract and found work immediately. Roman Polanski, his neighbor, was one of the directors that was now given a lot of free reign in this age, . Dalton's character expressed the frustration many probably felt at the time, and Tarantino built a character that was beautifully acted by DiCaprio.
Cliff Booth on the other hand, was the most Tarantino character in the movie. I think he'll be the fan favorite, because he requires no historical context or empathy to understand. He's a stunt double who lives much worse than his star, Dalton, and is a no-no sense badass with a muddled past. His scenes were incredibly fun, as Pitt brought a certain energy to each scene that glued you to the screen waiting for his next move. Particularly at the end, when Tex had him at gunpoint and he was tripping on acid. Obviously he had the situation under control, but we as the audience have no idea until he sicks the dog on them. Booth was a character you expect to see in a Tarantino movie. None of his storyline was used for what people will say is "pointless", mainly because he is the most involved with the Manson clan.
Interestingly, the Manson clan is hardly shown in the movie. Charles himself only shows up twice, and only says a few words. I actually like this choice, because it left a lingering thought that perhaps Manson was a danger at all times, and didn't play to the audience the way we thought it would. It wasn't a story about the Manson murders. Manson just happened to be going on at the time Dalton and Booth were having their struggles, and it intersected.
Which brings me to my last point, and that is of Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). Her role, while a tad less utilized than I expected, was Central because the real life Tate was murdered by the Manson clan. If you go in as an audience member with that knowledge, you go the whole movie waiting for something to happen to her, and it never does. Tate herself was a happy, blooming actress who spent time with friends and danced (a lot). This carefree manner was underlying a want to be famous, as she tells people who she is and is clearly disappointed when they don't recognize her. Tate plays a role in this story of showing the era of actors now replacing Rick Dalton, and also showing special to Hollywood, the silver screen's allure. As this is essentially a long love letter to Hollywood, Tarantino pens what drew him to the screen through Tate.
With all of its references, obscure or in your face, there is a delicious amount to absorb, especially for cinefiles. Tarantino has the viewer to sit back, eat up the screen, and imagine we are right there with the characters in a wonderfully painted portrait of a Hollywood long gone. This movie will be misunderstood because of the expectations for the Manson murders, and because audiences nowadays expect action on every corner, which Tarantino's name can be attached to in some capacity. Without any crazy special effects to speak, simply a fantastic script and acting, I think many audience members will get bored or not understand why it's entertaining to others. I personally think it's one of Tarantino's best, if not his absolute best, and will stand the test of time for movie lovers everywhere. Agree or disagree, we all have to admit that Brad Pitt's dog was awesome.
The movie just felt like Tarantino wanted to show off how much he knows about film history and how nostalgic the old Hollywood made him feel. The acting was amazing. The cinematography was amazing. The storyline just wasn't there though. I want to say I loved it so bad but it just felt so flat to me.
The characters didn't really develop at all. Leo's character just kind of changed halfway through with only a narration as to why he was different. Brad Pitts character was the exact same the entire film. Margot Robbie's characters development was that she finally said like 20 words at the very end.
The ending was the most enjoyable part without a doubt. That felt like a classic Tarantino scene. The rest of it though just felt like a normal movie. The dialogue didn't feel like him to me for the most part, with the exception of a few scenes. The soundtrack was phenomenal and caught the vibe of the movie flawlessly.
Maybe I was just hoping for more or maybe I missed out on something. It was an enjoyable movie, but it just felt off to me. I really hope he will make a final movie to end his career with a bang, because this is not the one
Leonard Dicaprio and Brad Pitt give career high performances. Dicaprio is Rick Dalton, a TV cowboy actor who longs for movie stardom but has now hit the skids. Pitt plays Cliff Booth his stunt double/driver and all around best bud. They also represent doubles of each other in real life, though Dalton is angry and frustrated at his failings in life while Booth is perfectly happy to be his pal's gopher and handyman. There is good recreations of TV westerns of the time, Dalton had been the star of "Bounty Law" a show that never existed but is clearly based on Steve McQueen's "Wanted Dead Or Alive" series. Dalton is now playing guest role villains on TV. An actual series "Lancer" is recreated here, I never saw this show when it aired since it was on up against "The Mod Squad" in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Dalton has some funny and touching scenes opposite a precocious 8 year old actress while doing the "Lancer" episode. The late Luke Perry has his final film appearance in these scenes also.
Margot Robbie has an almost magical presence playing actress Sharon Tate. Tate unfortunately is best known today as the most famous of the Manson family murder victims. We see not only how beautiful she was but also how good and kind she was as well. One of my favorite scenes is when she goes to a movie theater to watch "The Wrecking Crew" a film she made in 1968 with Dean Martin. We see actual clips of the movie, (with the real Sharon Tate) and cuts back to her reactions, she becomes delighted when the audience laughs at her comedy bits and applauds at her fight scene with Nancy Kwan.
The film starts to turn dark when Cliff picks up a teenage girl hitchhiker who wants to be taken to Spahn Ranch, a run down movie set where he once worked. I have read nearly everything about the Manson case, so I knew where it was going now. Cliff sees a bunch of mostly hippie girls hanging around and asks if George Spahn the original owner of the ranch still lives there. The scenes at the ranch are quietly disturbing. Dakota Fanning (I did not recognize her) plays Squeaky, one of the real life Manson girls. Her vacant eyes and cold manner make for some suspenseful moments. Cliff is concerned about his old friend George and demands to see him. He finds him now old and blind (Bruce Dern in a great cameo) but at least alive. Cliff is still suspicious but leaves the ranch.
The final act comes up for the biggest shock of all. Rick has returned from several months filming some spaghetti westerns in Italy.He has also gotten married to an Italian actress. It is now August 8 1969. Cliff and his faithful pit bull Brandy are staying the night at Rick's house. Sharon Tate and some of her friends arrive at her home (which is right next door to Rick) to spend the evening together. Then Manson followers Charles "Tex" Watson, Patricia "Katie" Krenwinkel, Susan "Sadie" Atkins and Linda Kasabian are driving up the road. I knew what was coming and was dreading this moment, I was hoping that Tarantino would not show the gruesome murders but I was preparing myself. Then Rick hears them driving up and has an angry altercation with them, then I was a bit surprised that real life characters were suddenly intermingling with fictional characters on a night when a horrible historic moment happened. When Rick goes into the house, the killers suddenly realize that he was the star of the TV show "Bounty Law". Then psycho Sadie goes on a rant about how TV showed her generation how to kill by showing murders every week on the small screen. I had heard some Manson followers had actually said this. Linda is too scared to go with the other three and takes the car keys and drives off leaving them. Another change in the real story, Linda did not participate in the murders but did stay with them, so once again I am getting bewildered. Tex, Sadie and Katie than decide to go to Rick's house rather than Sharon's. I am wondering are they now going to kill them also? Then the most surprising thing happens, Cliff, his pit bull and Rick decide to fight back against these scummy creeps leaving them to be battered and massacred. Brandy has some great scenes as one of the most heroic dogs I have seen in film. My head was reeling by this time, I kept thinking "Are they really doing this?" Then came the ending, Rick is now safe, Cliff injured but alive. And now Rick gets to meet his next door neighbor Sharon and her friends. I am still in shock but then for the first time we see the title on screen "Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood" and then I finally get it, this is a Hollywood story not real life, this is what we wish would have happened.
I finally had to see the film again for a second time so I could actually enjoy that climatic scene, without the dread and confusion I had the first time. This is a phenomenal work, like nothing I have ever seen and probably never will again.
For 2 hrs, 41 minutes, I was taken 50 years back, experiencing Hollywood's film industry as a comedic drama filled with desire, tension and everyday life.
I liked Brad's character the most, but Leo easily matched with his own performance. A definite see-it-in-theatres watch. Bring your sense of humor though. There are lines of dialogue and laugh out loud bits that completely satisfy your curious mind. Expect everything you would from Tarantino, but also what you wouldn't.
I gave it a perfect 10 because I forgot I was watching a nearly 3 hour film, even though it still wasn't long enough for me. I would like to see a director's cut up to an hour longer as I think this is a unique case that extra footage would only help such an already powerful story.
I had the privilege to watch an early 70mm screening of this film at the cinerama dome with the director, Tarantino, in the audience. It was a surreal experience I'll never forget.
Once Upon a Time In Hollywood is the homage of all homages. Critics are calling this Tarantino's "love letter to Hollywood", but in reality it's much, much more. This letter addresses a Hollywood that's no longer recognizable, and that melancholy is woven into the fabric of this film. While there is the requisite violence, witty banter, and unpredictable outcomes, this is probably the most mature and intelligent Quentin Tarantino film yet. It also deviates from the Tarantino template by remaining somewhat linear. With a runtime of just over two hours and forty minutes, the pacing is artfully throttled, allowing the audience to take in the authentic and painstakingly detailed scenery. The period music drives the narrative but never becomes a music video. The performances are flawless. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt will deservedly receive accolades for their performances as the main characters, but honestly there is not a single weak performance among the ensemble. And lastly, the subject matter: I was admittedly apprehensive about how the events of August 8, 1969 would be handled. While no one would be surprised to see these heinous acts glorified or even caricatured, Tarantino continues to be unpredictable. At the risk of spoiling the plotline, I'll just say this is handled tastefully and even respectfully, yet true to the classic Tarantino flair.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood demonstrates a more mellowed Quentin Tarantino touch but it's far from a departure. I suspect audiences that normally can't stomach the assaulting violence and shock of the Tarantino brand may very well enjoy this film.
In keeping with the request from Mr. Tarantino, this review will not include any spoilers or details that might negatively impact anyone's initial viewing of the film. It's a reasonable request since the film is so unique and literally packed with nostalgia, sight gags, and historical bits and pieces - some accurate, some not so much. There is a lot to take in and process, and the full impact of the initial viewing might result in awe, shock or disgust ... and maybe even all of the above. So this will be a pretty simple overview peppered with some insight that should enhance rather than spoil the experience.
The film covers about 6 months in 1969, but in reality, it all takes place (at least what we see on screen) in 3 days. Leonardo DiCaprio (possibly his best ever performance) plays Rick Dalton, an actor who had a hit (fictional) TV western series in the 50's and 60's entitled "Bounty Law". Since the show ended, Rick has been unable to make the successful transition to movies. For comparison, think of Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen and Burt Reynolds - all actors in TV westerns who found greater career success in movies. Brad Pitt (the epitome of cool) stars as Cliff Booth, Rick's stunt double, friend, driver, handyman, etc. While Rick is desperate to find the next stage of his career and fend off being forgotten, Cliff, a Vietnam vet, is accepting of his lot in life. Rick lives in a swanky Hollywood Hills home next door to hotshot director Roman Polanski and his starlet wife Sharon Tate; and Cliff lives in a trailer behind the Van Nuys Drive-In with his well-trained Rottweiler Brandy.
There are multiple parallel stories to follow, and a key one involves the aforementioned Sharon Tate. Margot Robbie nails the role and bounces about town with the energy and sweet aura that we imagine she possessed. All 3 of the lead actors - DiCaprio, Pitt, Robbie - have knockout scenes that I'd love to be able to discuss, but I'm not sure how without giving away too much. What I can say is that each of these three talented actors prove that movie stars still exist.
This is Tarantino's 9th film as a director (he counts the 2-part KILL BILL as one film), and he claims he will stop making films after number 10. There are multiple features we can count on in a QT film, and a ridiculously deep supporting cast is one. Going through each of the characters played by actors you will recognize would take a page and a half, so I'll cover only a few here. Margaret Qualley is a scene stealer as Pussycat, one of the Manson family girls. You likely remember her from the recent "Fosse/Verdon" or "The Leftovers", and here she fully embraces the hippie look and spirit. Emile Hirsch plays hairdresser Jay Sebring, one of those in the house with Ms. Tate on that fateful night, and Mike Moh plays Bruce Lee so convincingly that I was momentarily confused when he took off his sunglasses. Also making appearances are some Tarantino regulars: Kurt Russell (as a stunt coordinator and narrator), Michael Madsen (as an actor), and Bruce Dern as George Spahn (a late replacement after Burt Reynolds passed away). Others of note include Maya Hawke (Uma Thurman's daughter), Austin Butler (recently cast in the title role of Baz Luhrmann's Elvis biopic) as Tex Watson, Rumer Willis (Bruce's daughter) as actress Joanna Pettet, Damian Lewis as Steve McQueen, Al Pacino as agent Marvin Schwarzs, Dakota Fanning as Squeaky Fromme, and the late Luke Perry as actor Wayne Maunder ("Lancer"). 90 year old Clu Gulager ("The Virginian", THE LAST PICTURE SHOW) makes an appearance, and Nicholas Hammond (Friedrich from THE SOUND OF MUSIC) tears into his role with gusto as director Sam Wanamaker. There is even a TV Guide cover featuring the late great character actor Andrew Duggan ("Lancer"). Some of these, and many more, are like cameos, but it's still fascinating to see the faces.
1969 was 50 years ago, and Tarantino does a remarkable job of recreating the look of Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood Boulevard, Cielo Drive, and studio backlots. Much credit goes to Production Designer Barbara Ling and Set Decorator Nancy Haigh (frequent Coen Brothers collaborator and an Oscar winner for BUGSY). Arianne Phillips does a tremendous job with the costumes that look natural for the time period, and not like something right off the wardrobe racks. Three-time Oscar winning Cinematographer Robert Richardson (HUGO, THE AVIATOR, JFK) is back for his 6th Tarantino film, and he captures the look and feel and vibe of a time that is so personal to the director.
It's been three and a half years since THE HATEFUL EIGHT, Tarantino's most recent film, and probably his worst received. This one is clearly personal as it captures the time and place that he fell in love with movies. The dichotomy of rising starlet and fading cowboy as neighbors is a brilliant way to make a point about times changing. This was a time of transition in the United States - a new culture was upon us, and whatever innocence remained, was surely snuffed out on a hot August night in 1969. As usual, his use of music serves a purpose. We are treated to Roy Head, The Royal Guardsmen, and Paul Revere and the Raiders, among others. QT also shows us plenty of bare feet (another trademark). What is unusual is that the film lacks the trademark mass dialogue. This one kind of meanders ... right up until it doesn't.
Quentin Tarantino is a living, breathing film geek (that's a compliment) who has earned the right to make the movies he wants to make. This one took him a lifetime to live, 5 years to write, and it will take you 161 minutes to watch. It was warmly received at Cannes, but no one can expect to "catch" everything Mr. Tarantino has served up in one viewing. That said, one viewing will likely be one too many for quite a few folks (especially many under 40 who have no recollection of this Hollywood). Some will categorize this as an overindulgent nostalgia trip for movie nerds. And they are likely correct. But for those of us who complain that too many movies are remakes, re-treads and comic books, there is no denying Tarantino delivers a unique and creative viewing experience - and it's not meant for everyone.
Yes the acting was generally pretty darned good. Yes, the camera work was dazzling. But the film just seemed superficial and artificial.
I realize there are plenty of folks who just adored the film and concluded it was innovative and clever beyond belief. I fear those conclusions are as superficial as this film.
So if you're a fan of Tarrantino films, this could go either way for you. If you don't buy into the hype, you very well may enjoy it. But iIf you're not a fan of his films, this one isn't likely to turn you into a fan. Better you should rent "Reservoir Dogs."
And when it comes the ending ... wow. Especially if you know a bit of history. It's intense and amazing and I'll just leave it at that.
That said, it is a little male-biased by modern standards, but it's capturing the mentality of a different time period. DiCaprio and Pitt play two wildly different characters that you just want to keep watching to see they do next. They will quite possibly win Oscars for their performances -- and Tarantino will no doubt be up for best director, best original screenplay and best film.
If you enjoy Tarantino's moviemaking style - the dialog, the visuals, the period details and, yes ... the violence ... this is a must see. It's almost 2 and 3/4 hours - but I would have gladly stayed longer.
BTW, if you stay a minute into the end-credits, there's a post credit scene followed by a fun radio (audio-only) contest commercial.
Although I can see how a few scenes were fairly slow, and the middle was not particularly engaging, Tarantino definitely had a purpose for each scene, even if I don't have all the answers. Even the smallest of details, like a gun holster of beer or the way the characters drive down the highway, reveals hidden thoughts, feelings, and backstories to the audience. If you do not catch onto these specific details, I can understand how some points seem overindulgent of "the golden age" of Hollywood. But the beautifully nostalgic filming in these moments is what makes this film not only entertaining, but a piece of art.
It's the juxtaposition of Sharron and Dalton's storyline, it's the wonder and the dimensional characters, it's the brilliant manipulation of the audience's emotions, causing you to laugh, scream, and cry (sometimes simultaneously) that makes this film utterly perfect.
The ending leaves you wondering "What if..." over and over again, questioning what reality would look like if these fictional characters of Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth actually existed. And I think that's when I realized how perfect the title was: it's a humorous, fairy-tale (although not completely violent-free) ending to the tragic fate of Hollywood in the 60s...