I was very excited for Once Upon A Time in Hollywood as I consider myself a big fan of Quentin Tarantino. There hasn’t been a Tarantino film I haven’t loved. Well, that is until now… Once Upon A Time in Hollywood is Tarantino’s love letter to the late 1960’s and the end of the golden age of Hollywood. The film is a fictional rewrite of history regarding the events prior to actress Sharon Tate’s death in 1969.
Actors Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie play characters Rick Dalton, Cliff Booth and Sharon Tate. Characters Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth are veterans in the film industry. Rick, an actor who previous starred in a hit but short-lived Western TV series and Cliff being his best mate and loyal stunt man. These two characters, unlike Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate, are completely fictional. Despite being completely fictional characters, the two are far more interesting than the shallow soulless and boring portrayal of Robbie’s Sharon Tate. This I believe is through no fault of Robbie’s own, but instead due to the lack of content provided to Robbie to work with.
DiCaprio however shines as struggling veteran actor, Rick Dalton. The character feels very real, is somewhat funny, raw and relatable with his self-esteem issues and his frustrations of trying to remain relevant and on top of his game in an ever-changing film industry. Leonardo DiCaprio also has incredible on-screen chemistry with Brad Pitt in a dynamic relationship that makes you truly believe the pair have been pals for years.
Pitt is also impressive in his role as unhinged, untamed stuntman, Cliff Booth. Although appearing calm and Rick’s rock when the two are in proximity, all that changes when Rick is alone, and depending on who challenges him and tries his patience. Although Rick and Cliff are two very different characters, what they do have in common is that you never want to cross either of them in a fight.
Yes, I loved the bromance that Pitt and DiCaprio had as characters Rick and Cliff on-screen. But I don’t think their effortless talents were enough for me to fully enjoy the film. While I understand the era that Tarantino is paying tribute to visually in Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, I could not really follow the narrative. Or I daresay, there was no real narrative. Just a bunch of characters in different storylines with paths that never truly meet. I believe the film will only make sense to you if you’ve read up on your Charles Manson Family and Sharon Tate history. And I believe that this is what makes the film weak. Because you shouldn’t have to read up on the topics and themes the film references prior to seeing the damn film to understand and enjoy it.
The props and costuming are the best that money can buy and really make you believe that Once Upon A Time in Hollywood really was filmed in the era that Tarantino lovingly (in his own way) pays tribute to. It is bright, stylish and colourful, making the golden age of Hollywood look attractive to work in and experience. The film also makes note of the lack of security and fear in the late 1960’s with characters still hitchhiking and doors not being locked. It is clear times have changed since then, but wow, how free would it have felt to not live in fear as we do now?
I do love Tarantino, DiCaprio, Pitt and Robbie individually. I know they’re all very talented, I know they’ve all done brilliant films, some of their films are even my all-time favourite flicks. But in what appears to be a winning combination and promising collaboration, Once Upon A Time in Hollywood fails to deliver. While I have seen worse films, Once Upon A Time in Hollywood is by far (and sadly) Tarantino’s weakest. This movie is an unnecessary rewrite of true events, with characters running around and never truly coming together. Once Upon A Time in Hollywood is more so a glorified fanfiction that anything else. It would have been better if Tarantino chose to pay tribute to the late 1960’s with a completely original storyline that’s not based on truth, with all fictional characters. But I guess it’s too late now since, let’s face it – you can’t change the past. Sorry, Quentin.