Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Isn’t Your Average Tarantino Flick

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4star 2“In this town, it can all change…like that.”

Sharon Tate, Charles Manson, 1969 Hollywood? What are you up to this time, Quentin Tarantino?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, a new Tarantino movie is out. While the movie is being critically praised (5-minute standing ovation at Cannes), the director is being roasted. Some critics are even saying that it’s time to end our love affair with him, and to cancel him once and for all. Why? You probably already know, but if you don’t, let’s review.

The Guardian is one of many sources that wrote a piece on how Tarantino revels in extreme violence against female characters, and how this has to stop. It wasn’t until last year that we learned he had persuaded Uma Thurman into driving an unsafe car during the filming of Kill Bill resulting in a crash…the director called it “the biggest regret of his life”.

Look, I get it. I see what he does with his female characters, and it’s not okay. But I can’t deny that some of his female characters are strong, powerful women who command the screen and take charge of their situation…see Jackie Brown. I don’t want to dwell on this topic, because I could write an entire post arguing for and against him, but that’s not the point of my Once Upon a Time in Hollywood post.

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Tarantino has been making movies for the last 28 years, but why he chose to tell this particular story…I’m not quite sure.

Charles Manson, Sharon Tate? When I heard about this plot a year ago, it left a bad taste in my mouth. And releasing the film on the anniversary of Tate’s tragic death? It didn’t seem appropriate at all, but knowing Tarantino, I knew there would be some type of twist to the truth of this story.

Filled with plenty of homages, Tarantino-isms, and countless feet shots (a little excessive…you’ve been warned), this is definitely a movie not to be missed. Is it one of his best or in my top 5 of his films? No. Don’t go into this film expecting to see a “Tarantino flick”, because for the most part, it’s not. It’s a different piece of art, which may or may not bode well with Tarantino lovers, but I won’t spoil the plot.

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The story follows a faded television actor (Leonardo Dicaprio) and his stunt double (Brad Pitt) who strive to achieve fame and success in the film industry during the final years of Hollywood’s Golden Age in 1969 Los Angeles. The film also ties in the time frame when Charles Manson was working his sadistic plans with his ever-idiotic cult of hippies.

While it seems unusual and tasteless to cover something so gruesome, Tarantino focuses more on a day in the life of his characters. He emphasizes in interviews that it’s their story…so don’t expect a huge bloody Manson murder to drive the film; in fact, the character of Charles Manson has maybe 10 seconds of screen time.

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“In both cases I was creating a Los Angeles of my memory. In this movie, it was the Los Angeles of when I was 6 and 7. It was easy to remember all that stuff.  Did you have any trepidation about using the Manson murders as a backdrop? I thought hard about it. You can try it, and maybe you won’t pull it off. Maybe it falls into bad taste, it seems ugly, opportunistic. I was aware of all those things. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to try. I knew that if I was going to do this, I had to earn the right to do it at some point in the material. So I risked going for it. And when I did it on the page, I thought I did pull it off. If I’d tried it and wasn’t able to pull it off, then I wouldn’t have made the movie.” Tarantino via Time.

It’s hard not to hold a Tarantino film on such a high caliber; his body of work is masterful, so to not compare and contrast this one to his previous films is almost impossible. As usual, his cast is magnificent, all giving their absolute best. This in fact may be Dicaprio’s best performance to date.

You can expect a lot of great cameos from some of Tarantino’s favorite actors from previous work. I won’t spoil this, but expect some surprises. Lena Dunham makes an unusual appearance, but it somehow managed to work.

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Like I said before, Dicaprio and Pitt are absolutely fantastic. If this isn’t some of their best work, you can call me a liar. Dicaprio is the solid MVP of the film, but Pitt isn’t too far behind him. With just enough comic relief wrapped around such a morbid tale, Dicaprio proves he’s hilarious. He was probably, without question, my favorite part of the entire film. Mark my word, he’s coming for you, Academy, and he might just get another Oscar!

My only gripe with the film is it’s lengthy run-time. The first and third act are absolutely gripping, but the middle dragged with scenes that shoulda coulda been trimmed or cut entirely. I can sit through a 2.5 hour film if it has me captivated from start to finish, but parts of this one had me a little bored at times.

Tarantino films have been a part of our lives for three decades now, but we may be reaching the end of an era. Tarantino has been quoted in numerous interviews that he’ll end his career after 10 films. Hollywood is his ninth, and rumors have circulated recently that a Kill Bill 3 may be his 10th. Whether or not he retires, I’ll always be a huge fan of his work.

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10 thoughts on “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Isn’t Your Average Tarantino Flick”

  1. I was so against the idea of this film when he was in production, then I saw the trailer and was like….”gahhh it looks good!” lol I’m curious that everyone seems to be saying it doesn’t feel like a QT for the most part. I’ll be seeing it on Monday.

    1. It’s definitely worth seeing…just be aware of the long run-time. I was also really tired when I saw it, so that didn’t help. Send me your review when you post it!

  2. Great that you liked it but I thought it was a damn mess and DiCaprio was hamming it up so bad. Pitt was fantastic and was the only reason I managed to finish this bloated nightmare.

    1. Parts involving lack of editing were definitely messy…I didn’t emphasize that enough, but it almost felt like a rough draft version of what we should have gotten.

  3. This will probably end up being one of the best surprises of the movie year for me. I’ve been pretty mixed on QT over the years but this thing sucked me in from the start. I’ve seen it twice now and caught so many new things the second time around, thematically and nostalgic. I think it’s a beautiful mess and surprising restrained.

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