Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood focuses on Rick Dalton, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, a superstar of the 50’s and how he is adjusting to being phased out and used as a stepping stone for the new stars of 1969, as well as his stuntman come personal driver, Cliff Booth, played by Brad Pitt.
This is Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film of a touted ten filmography total, after which he plans to retire, unfortunately if the quality of his final film is anything similar to this film, it looks as though the career of one of the greatest modern directors will go out in a whimper.
Quentin Tarantino, a well known film buff and historian, combining his writing and directing talents and basing a film in old Hollywood sounded like an absolute dream come true, unfortunately the dream turned sour in a variety of ways.
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood doesn’t feel like a Quentin Tarantino film, it feels like countless other imitators who never reach the heights of pure Tarantino style. The plot of the film is meandering with no clear narrative conclusion in sight, the stories barely intertwine and have no effect on the narrative of the other. The character dialogue isn’t as sharp or intelligent as any previous Tarantino film, it lacks the bite that defines Tarantino’s fantastic scripts. The excessive feet shots feel like a spoof on Tarantino’s style, a joking jab at his well known fetish, throughout the whole film they get more and more gratuitous and distracting.
With every Tarantino film the whole ensemble cast bring their A game when it comes to performances, however in this film, no one gave a performance worth writing home about. Margot Robbie and her side story were completely superfluous, as Sharon Tate, a young movie star who dates Roman Polanski. It added nothing to the film and atypically from the Tarantino style, the whole sub-plot could have been cut and nothing would have been lost. Even Robbie’s performance was just average, which is mainly due to the script having nothing of significance for her to perform.
The two actors that were given significant characters to work with were Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt. who play an aging movie star and his stuntman respectively. Both of these actors are excellent when given a good enough script but unfortunately, this was definitely one of Tarantino’s misfires. There’s no snappy dialogue, there’s no rich character traits, there is no consistent story here and it greatly hurts the film and while Pitt and DiCaprio did their best with what they were given, it just didn’t click.
That pacing of the film was off, it wasn’t slow, but due to the nature of the story, where the audience follows Rick Dalton, for the most part, throughout 1969 with no clear narrative, no ending in sight, it just felt stagnated and dull. There was no fire or high tempo story beats, it just chugged along at a steady, dull pace.
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood isn’t a bad film by any means, it’s well shot, the performances are pretty good for the most part, the story is told well if not in a convoluted way. It’s just that this suffers from an unleashed Tarantino, with no one telling him no or controlling him, he is his own worst enemy. This is arguably Quentin Tarantino’s worst film, but it still has a certain charm and is not a bad film by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a good film hampered by expectations that come with being Tarantino’s second to last film.