MOVIE REVIEW: Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019)

For Tarantino-lovers, when a new trailer is released for one of his films, it’s always an exciting time to wait in anticipation. But when he’s working with Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie and Leonardo DiCaprio, it’s even more reason to get down to the cinema to see what he’s created from his fantastical brain this time.

Tarantino loves to create revisionist films where his fictional characters are pushed into our universe and rewrite the wrongs that humanity has created in that time such as Inglorious Basterds when Hitler gets his comeuppance. Now, under the guise of a story about a failed actor trying to regain his career in Hollywood, Tarantino takes on the Manson Family and rewrites Sharon Tate’s vicious murder in order to make it that she survived and it was the murderers that were brutally slaughtered. For someone who has seen documentaries and series such as Mindhunter which look into Charles Manson, I picked up the signs pretty quickly about what this was going to be about. However, Tarantino relies on the fact that people will.

Otherwise, you’re left with a feeling of… okay, where is he going with this?

One thing that I have always been in awe of with Tarantino’s film is his direction. His use of certain angles, colours, tracking shots and the fact that he isn’t afraid to see just how far he can push a scene (see my scene analysis of the cold open from Inglorious Basterds) are what has landed him as one of the renowned directors of his time – even if he is a bit like Marmite. But with this film – I didn’t see that Tarantino spark. If anything, it felt as if it could have been directed by anyone and didn’t have that bespoke originality that normally litters his film. Aside from the consistent use of feet shots.

Seriously, I need a support group for people who love Tarantino films but hate feet.

Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) finds himself tangled up with the Manson family when he picks up Pussycat, a hippy girl that he’s made eyes at a few times, and drops her home. He meets Tex and some other members of the Manson family that will strike fear into people’s hearts when they hear the names before making his way home. After beating one of them to shreds when he refuses to fix his tyre. On the night that the Manson family decide to carry out their heinous crime, they are accosted by Rick Dalton who tells them to leave his street. They decide that he should be one of the victims of their violence and they break into his house only to find a high Cliff Booth waiting there.

What ensues is the regular madness of Tarantino’s films but I couldn’t help but find that it was lacking its normal charm. While the violent scenes are normally outlandish and darkly comic – which this one certainly is – it felt too much. Even for a Tarantino. The constant screaming from one of the Manson family was overpowering to the senses that I found myself looking forward to when the scene would end. If you compare that scene to Django, the tone is certainly different. Maybe it just wasn’t my cup of tea. Or can of dog food.

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As for the acting, this could be one of Leonardo’s most memorable performances and one that I believe could have been close to home to him. While he is by no means a has-been, he is an actor who has been snubbed plenty of times at the Academy to the point that it became a joke. The character of Rick Dalton was interesting as even though he is classed as the main character, he has little to the do with the true plot of the film.

Brad Pitt’s Cliff Booth is the catalyst to the events happening when he gives Pussycat a ride home. His performance of the laidback stuntman is funny, charming and tongue in cheek but personally, I don’t believe it was one of Pitt’s best performances to have landed him with an Oscar. I recently watched Fury (2014) and I thought his performance was incredibly strong and while his portrayal of Booth is believable, it’s a classic Pitt role that we have seen him perform time and time again.

Finally in terms of main characters, we have Margot Robbie’s portrayal of Sharon Tate. I was disappointed that she didn’t play a bigger part in the film and was reduced to mainly the parts that we had already seen in the trailer. She’s shown her acting chops over the past few years – her previous role with Di Caprio in Wolf of Wall Street (2013) was incredible – and wasn’t given room to move with this character. Whether that’s because of keeping the piece respectable to the real Sharon Tate, I don’t know. But it was a shame to see a big star like Margot in a long film like this barely get any screen time.

Overall, I would rate this film ★★★.  I don’t think it was one of Tarantino’s best films but it certainly showed that he still isn’t afraid to tackle subjects that many may not touch with a barge pole. We will have to see what happens in his next (and supposedly, his last) release.

I hope you enjoyed this review, let us know which film you would like us to review next!

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