Movie: Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Very few directors are household names like Quentin Tarantino. Casual filmgoers tend to not pay attention to who’s behind a movie beyond the actors, but Tarantino can sell a movie with his name alone. He’s a director film nerds and casual filmgoers can agree on, because he has an impressive filmography of mainly classics. Though very different from each other in concept, Tarantino’s films have stamps that make his movies so distinct. Well-written dialogue, stylistic cinematography, interesting characters, and loads of violence are all Tarantinoisms one can expect when going into a film of his, and he never lets us forget that he is a passionate movie fan, showcasing his admiration for the 60’s and the 70’s drawing influence from crime movies, Spaghetti Westerns, Blaxploitation films, and Kung Fu movies, so it’s no surprise that his new film Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is a love letter to the 60’s. This movie stunningly encapsulates the spirit of the 60’s. Everything from the set design, costume design, and the camera work truly captures what it was like to live in the 60’s. Tarantino and his film crew perfected a recreation of old 60’s Hollywood to the point where the movie itself feels very much like a 60’s movie, but here’s the thing, it seems like more attention was spent on that than fully fleshing out characters, dialogue, and story. The film has a basic premise. Our lead character Rick Dalton played by Leonardo DiCaprio is facing a potential end of his acting career as he struggles to find roles and adapt to the ever-changing film industry. Accompanied by his stunt double played by Brad Pitt, the two take us on a tour through Los Angeles, CA throughout the film…. and that’s it. Really that’s it. There’s no plot, there’s no conflict, there’s no sense of tension or suspense. It’s just Tarantino flexing his directing skills and knowledge of the 60’s. I understand not every movie has to have a narrative. I don’t require that to enjoy a movie. There are plenty of impactful movies that don’t even have a basic premise or are told in a nonlinear narrative like say Tarantino’s film Pulp Fiction, but if your movie is going to lack story then it must make up for it in captivating dialogue, mesmerizing cinematography, or just sheer entertaining action, and surprisingly this movie lacks all of that. Characters pop in here and there who feel like nothing but reminders of the famous celebrities of the 60’s, but the only interesting character who’s fully-developed is Rick Dalton, and Leonardo DiCaprio gives us one of his best performances playing a character rich in vulnerability, humor, and sentiment. His performance is worth watching, but sadly his performance alone doesn’t make up for the directionless nature of the film. Brad Pitt does well with his performance but his character seems a bit pointless, and, oh yeah Margot Robbie plays Sharon Tate. No one should ever have to say the words “Oh yeah Margot Robbie is in this movie,” because her incredible acting is often show-stopping and engaging, but not in this movie. Given the criminally small amount of lines she’s given, she does an impressive job, but she’s not even close to being an essential character because Tarantino under-wrote her and did not utilize her acting skills in favor of shining the spotlight on our male leads which is unfair and quite offensive to be honest. It almost feels like she’s only there to lead in to the film’s finale involving the Manson family, which is actually an incredible scene that evokes “Horror” and is shot very well, but as entertaining as this scene is, it would have been much more impactful if the characters involved were developed more prior to the scene instead of showing up in small under-developed vignettes. I feel like these certain characters crossing paths should have lead to a more suspenseful climax. This movie is a frustrating watch, especially knowing it’s a Tarantino film where we should be completely enamored of the dialogue and characters, but sadly this movie feels inessential.
Written By: Steven Sandoval