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Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood Movie Review

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Quentin Tarantino is still one of the hottest directors in Hollywood, and he’s one of the few directors left who gets people to the theaters by himself. Sure, he has Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, and a bunch of other stars from the past and present, but Tarantino is the real selling point of this movie. He’s still one of the most beloved directors in the industry, and it’s pretty obvious why he is. He’s a filmmaker for people who love movies. He’s a massive fan, just like us, only he’s darn good at making movies, too. I was really excited for this one. I’m a big Tarantino fan, and this cast mixed with this subject matter had me so pumped. This felt like it was going to be a pure passion project for Tarantino, and I couldn’t wait to see the result.

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Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood is directed by Quentin Tarantino and stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Al Pacino, Kurt Russell, Emile Hirsch, Luke Perry, Timothy Olyphant, and Dakota Fanning. 1969 finds Hollywood star Rick Dalton, played by DiCaprio, on the downswing of his career, and his stuntman Cliff Booth, played by Pitt, is right next to him. As the two try to navigate the twists and turns of show business past their primes, Dalton’s neighbor Sharon Tate, played by Robbie, tries to break into the industry.

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Right off the bat, if you’re a Tarantino fan, I think you’ll find a lot of enjoyment in this movie. If you love his style, his direction, and his writing, you’ll totally get a kick out of it. It’s built for people who love classic Tarantino. I’d honestly liken it most to Pulp Fiction because it spends a lot of time with the characters in some relatively unspectacular situations driven by conversation. In particular, Dalton and Booth have a lot of screen time simply going about their lives, talking and doing things as friends, and I loved that. I wouldn’t say this is Tarantino’s strongest movie when it comes to dialogue, but average Tarantino dialogue beats most modern dialogue, and I was hooked for most of the movie. I love how Tarantino stylizes simple conversations and is able to make them feel so much more exciting than they actually are. It’s one of the reasons he’s at the top of the food chain, and this movie showcases that. I also loved DiCaprio and Pitt together. At this movie’s core, it’s about two best friends trying to adapt to a new lifestyle. They know better days are behind them, and they can either let the industry walk all over them or change to become something else, and I loved when the emotions of the characters came out through their decisions.

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The performances are also fantastic, and DiCaprio and Pitt have amazing chemistry. They bounce Tarantino’s dialogue off each other and other characters so beautifully that the whole movie can come to a complete halt and still be entertaining. Tarantino has that special ability. Most movies need to be like sharks. They have to keep moving forward to survive. Quentin Tarantino takes that idea and slaps it in the face. He’ll grind a story to a seemingly directionless stop, but he can still give purpose to those moments. Whether the purpose is worth those stops seems to be pretty subjective, but for me, it works more often than not, and I’m still entertained even when the narrative isn’t chugging along. It also does a great job of sucking me into the world. It’s pretty obvious that Tarantino is passionate about Hollywood in the 1960s. The dialogue, direction, and performances are awesome, but the world-building took my breath away. It felt like I was watching a movie from 1969. Nothing feels out of place, and the costume design and production design are fantastic. This is the perfect example of the power of movies. They’re about as close as we’re going to get to time machines, and the runtime flew by because of how much fun I was having in this time period.

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Though I did enjoy most of this movie, it does have moments where I wish we could get back to pushing the story forward. I don’t know if I’d necessarily say that I was bored, but it could have used a little bit more guidance. I think Tarantino’s style hurts itself a little bit that way. He’s so good at putting together an entertaining scene that actually means nothing that it sometimes causes this movie to lose its focus and its power. A few times I noticed that I was entertained, but not quite enough to completely look past my questions about where the scene was going. When the answer to one of those questions is “nowhere,” it can be a little bit disappointing and deflating. While I won’t get into any spoilers, that particular issue affects the secondary plot for almost the entire film up until a finale I absolutely adored. I also wish that the secondary characters were explored a bit more. Rick and Cliff were so compelling, but everyone else seems to have a very specific role that shapes the world around Rick and Cliff as compared to forming into fully fleshed out characters with their own arcs.

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Overall, I really like this movie, but I don’t completely love it the way I love a few of Tarantino’s movies. It has excellent performances from its cast embodying extremely likable characters who are fun to watch. It’s hilarious, the dialogue bites, and the themes of friendship and age works really well because of the way Tarantino addresses them through the characters. He has such an amazing talent for showing them in really mundane situations that don’t guide the plot while still being able to entertain the audience. His passion for 1960s cinema is pretty obvious, and this is one of the most fun worlds to visit in the theater this year. If you’re looking for an immersive experience out of your movies as compared to a couple hours of straight entertainment, I think you’ll get your money’s worth from Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood. It has moments that make you wish Tarantino would get to his point, and it can be a bit frustrating when he doesn’t have one, but most of it is forgiven because of how entertaining this movie is and how charismatic the two leads are. Tarantino’s passion and the way this movie seems willing to give itself up to the audience makes me want to completely embrace it. I’m going to give Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood an 8/10.

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Will you be seeing Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood? Comment down in the comment section to let me know! As always, thank you, and keep listening to 88.7 The Pulse!

Justin Lyons

Hey, it's Justin Lyons! I am the Chief Film Critic for The Pulse. Have any questions for me? Please feel free to email me at [email protected]