Let me be the first person to say that I’m a big fan of Quentin Tarantino’s movies. I think all of his dialogue is by far some of the top writing in all of cinema. Even as he has gotten older his directing has gotten nothing but better. I am afraid his writing has gotten nothing but worse. Once upon a time in Hollywood was not only a bad Quentin Tarantino movie, it was a bad movie in general. There are some great actors in this movie. Al Pacino, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Kurt Russell, Timothy Dalton, Margot Robbie, the list goes on and on. It is sad to see them wasted on this firecracker that never hits an explosive conclusion as Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is the most overrated movie of 2019.
The story surrounds DiCaprio’s character a waning television actor that’s trying to not be forgotten. It even takes him so far down the rabbit hole, where he goes to Italy to film some spaghetti westerns. He then marries an Italian actress and kicks out his buddy who he’s been friends with forever. Which was really a sad moment on the second viewing, to know that this man is dedicated to Leo’s life, and then he just kind of throws him to the side of the road for a woman he doesn’t like. He has some fun scenes where he’s trying to figure out his character in his trailer. Leo shows off why we all flock to the theaters to watch him act. Underutilized in this movie and turned into a bit of a joke, he should have been used a lot better than this.
Sharon Tate is played by Margot Robbie. She brings elegance and a beauty to this character that makes you instantly adore her. Which is used for absolutely nothing! The true story about Sharon Tate is the grisly murder that happened to her. Without this knowledge, she’s not much of a character or worth saving. In her time she was a b-list actress. Not someone that deserved to be killed by any means, but someone that was made famous not for her acting but for how she was pregnant when she was killed by these psychopaths. Instead of acknowledging this, there are multiple times where you can see her dirty feet. I know that Quentin has a foot fetish, famously so even. (There was a substantial amount of evidence for that in this film.) You get a feeling at the end when she is saved that you are not excited for her to be spared, because there was really no threat to her in the first place. She is an unknowing victim to a crime that in this universe never happened. A setup without a punchline there wasn’t really a good payoff for her character or growth in any way.
Brad Pitt plays a stunt man named Cliff Booth. Brad Pitt excels in what he’s good at, which is being the coolest person in the room no matter what movie or scene he’s in. At a controversial scene, he’s even shown beating up Bruce Lee. Which I didn’t mind as much as them making Bruce Lee rude too other famous fighters even calling Muhammad Ali, Cassius Clay. Which inside the timeline didn’t make sense because Ali was world-famous by then and had been going by his new name for five years! After the fight, Pitt’s character was kicked off the set. He was already disliked because it was heavily implied that he killed his wife for nagging him too much. His saving grace is that he turn down sex from a 16-year-old girl named pussy cat. Which, in that scene, I thought they were implying that he was gay for Rick Dalton, DiCaprio’s character by doing that. Which would of at least been a curveball, but no it was just him being a good guy at this one moment, despite flirting with her at every opportunity before this.
The conclusion of this movie saw Pitt’s character take some acid and walks in on the home invasion of the Manson family. After sicking his dog on an intruder, he smashes a woman’s face in and DiCaprio uses a flamethrower from an old movie he shot and kills another would-be murderer. They kill these assailants, but Charles Manson is still out there. No real resolution except changing a point in the past that many of us don’t know.
There are many parts in the movie I do like, however. Like the scene where they’re sitting on the couch and watching his cameo in an old-time television show, cracking jokes about how they know everybody in the business. This is where I think Tarantino excels, in is his dialogue. I think that if they would have made a film just about those two characters and cut out all of the story surrounding it, it would have been a much better film.
Some people say that it’s a fairy tale that you shouldn’t care if it makes sense. All stories are fairy tales, that’s what movies are. This was a bad story with a couple of interesting scenes. It went on way too long and you didn’t care about the ending. The characters are flawed but not enough so that you can relate to them. The entire story arc is about the Manson family and it does not even need to be in the movie. If that’s the payoff with 30 seconds of Charlie Manson at the most, then you have not thought through your own ending.
Don’t ever lower your standards because you like a director. No one deserves a pass, everyone is only judged by there work. Tarantino says he’s going to make one last film and I hope that he spends a little bit more time on the writing and less time on how many barefoot shots he can do, for the next script.