Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019) Review

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The most overrated and pretentious movie of the year and the worst movie by Quentin Tarantino. 

It seems like Tarantino time and time again has done everything he can to distance himself from other filmmakers. He has a unique style and approach that can be matched by nobody and is generally loved among the film fan community and on the professional side. Claiming that he’s only going to make 10 movies, it added a sense of excitement for every film that he has coming out. Inglourious Basterds, and Django Unchained both marked major high points for the director since Pulp Fiction. The Hateful Eight marked a bit of a regression as the movie seemed a bit too long and was clearly made more for a stage play but was not by any means a bad movie. It still boosted an interesting story with very different characters and of course the unique Tarantino style. Now going into his “supposed” penultimate movie Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, the excitement was at a high for the cast and the setting. We were to be getting a story of an actor and his stunt double, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, in the time of Charles Manson and his followers. I was not able to see it in theatres at the time of release, but I had heard great reviews of it and how it was likely going to earn many Oscar nominations. Now I finally got my chance to see what all the fuss was about and unfortunately I’m probably in the minority. 

The biggest takeaway on the positive side is that we get to see Pitt and DiCaprio on screen together giving some of their best performances. The problem is that they seemed to be acting in a totally different movie. I guess that’s not entirely fair to say since the movie is an alternative history and instead of making Sharon Tate the subject of attack it’s actually Pitt’s character Cliff Booth. All of that is fine when it actually comes to fruition in the final act of the movie after it says six months later. The last act is easily the best part of the movie but it’s also not saying much since the rest of the movie seemed so terribly disjointed that I didn’t understand the point of what was going on. I mean of course it’s cool to see those characters act in that way because it really feels like classic Tarantino but it’s all of the lead up that just doesn’t work. 

DiCaprio’s character Rick Dalton is an actor and the whole time everything else is going on he’s on set. I know that the point of the movie is to tell a time in Hollywood where things are happening but the issue is that it feels like she’s trying to tell two different stories. While on one hand the real focus of the movie is Booth who goes through a series of events that leads up to the great finale. On the other hand we get DiCaprio who serves as a supporting character that really has no purpose other than to give Booth a purpose. Dalton has no purpose or point to the character other than being friends with Booth, even at the end of it when Dalton decides to part ways with Booth because he can’t afford him it doesn’t work because yeah they still party together but when they get to the house they’re not even in any scenes together until everything happens. Maybe I’m just looking too much into it, but I just really have a hard time processing why certain things happen or are even necessary in this movie. I think the cooler concept would have been to focus either on just Booth as a main character or to focus on the Manson family. It’s a completely missed opportunity to not get a Manson focused story with Tarantino’s direction and writing. Shoot, Manson is only in the movie for a two second scene. 

Another issue I really had with this movie beyond the actual focus of the movie was the point of many scenes. There’s a bunch of scenes with Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate walking around and us getting to see how nobody really recognizes her, but that’s really about it. We get a lot of information about her and set up like if we were to actually get an ending with her death, but because she doesn’t end up being attacked or killed, the point of all of those scenes doesn’t make sense. There’s no real reason for any of those scenes to happen other than to make us think that this was going to go the way we thought it was, but if you know Tarantino then you should have expected some sort of subversion of what you were expecting. And if it wasn’t the scenes with her that did it for me, it was all of the absolutely pointless shots of driving. The reason why I called this a pretentious movie is because a lot of it feels like Tarantino just trying to show off what Hollywood looked like back then. There were so many scenes of driving that could’ve been skipped for the sake of the runtime but weren’t just so that he could show off what Hollywood looks like in that time. At first it was kind of cool but it didn’t take long for it to become incredibly annoying. The pretentious feel it has of his focus being on the look rather than the actual story makes this one of his worst directed movies too. Not only because of these wasted scenes of people driving everywhere, but also because he lets scenes between actors draw out way too long in many cases. It works sometimes like on the movie set between Dalton and the little girl but other times it feels like he doesn’t know when to cut or when to pick up the pace. Normally things like this don’t stand out as much, but for some reason it felt very obvious and annoying in this movie to the point where I was getting more frustrated watching this the longer it went on.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is simply a giant mess of a movie with poor focus saved only by some great performances and an ending that is entertaining enough to make you forget about most of what happened before. It’s a terribly overrated movie that should not be nominated for much else than for the actors. This is a movie that is quite simply one of the worst Tarantino movies and seems to feel more like a bribery for the Oscars. I don’t like to get into the politics of the Oscars much, but it’s a little obvious that they really do enjoy their movies that are about Hollywood and it seems like he was looking for an easy in. I may be wrong where he wanted to genuinely make this movie for his own reasons, but the pretentious feel of how this movie was shot and executed does not feel like the Tarantino we had before Hateful Eight. It feels more like a movie of a guy stroking his own ego. My opinion of this movie is sure to get a lot of hate, but I tell it how I see it and man this was a crushing disappointment.

Grade: C

It would have a lower grade if not for the entertaining last act and the great performances.

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