Once Upon a Time in … Hollywood’s pairing of Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt is genius and also happens to be one of the best movies of the year.
Score: 4.5 / 5
From that first trailer, I was always interested watching the pairing of Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt. Well after seeing this movie, I can say that this pairing works so damn well. Their performances of friends / co-workers are the heart of this movie and when they are playing off each it’s a joy to watch. But then, this isn’t just a pairing of two amazing actors, this is a Quentin Tarantino film, which in itself can either lead to some very interesting beats or something maybe a little self-indulgent.
Make no mistake this is Tarantino going full Tarantino. Playing with all the techniques and styles he has used in the past and then some. For some this could very easily pull you out of the movie, but I enjoyed the sampling on display that Tarantino decided to use throughout. If I had to give one fault to this movie, it has to do with the length, but let’s get back to that later.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, follow the fading TV actor, Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) and his stunt man best friend Cliff Booth (Pitt) at the end of the 60’s. Dalton also happens to be the next door neighbor of Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). This bit is important in that while the story is more focused on Dalton’s attempt to save his career and Booth’s misadventures with time off, it also ties in a revisionists take on the murder of Sharon Tate and her friends at the hands of the Manson cult.
What ensues is three plot lines following Dalton, Booth, and Tate through 1969 up to that fateful night. This is where that whole length issue comes into play for me. I am a huge fan of Margot Robbie, but at least to me, I felt that the Sharon Tate C-story line was more filler than anything else. The scenes add at least 20 minutes to a 2 hour and 41 minute run time, when they didn’t really add to what was the more interesting plot of Dalton and Booth. Their stories propelled the plot forward while Tate’s was just… there? You don’t really see growth or much of anything of consequence from the Tate content other than it ties to Manson murders. But then this could have been accomplished in half the time or less. That said I do enjoy Margot Robbie’s performance, it just felt like extra fluff that I would imagine in a longer cut for big fans of the movie, and not for a theatrical run.
Speaking of Robbie, the cast as a whole is just jam packed with great talent. From top to bottom, everyone is a great actor that just elevates the entire film. I constantly would think to myself “I know that guy! I’ve seen her before!”. It helped give extra energy to every scene. Out of everyone though, DiCaprio is on another level in this movie. His TV actor on the decline Dalton was such an interesting character to watch, and his scenes were my favorites by a mile. There’s a particular sequence where he is acting as the villain of the week in a new western show (opposite the excellent Timothy Olyphant – WATCH JUSTIFIED people!) that for me was the crown jewel of acting in this movie.
Equally, the climax of the movie made up for the extraneous length with such a perfect payoff between, Dalton, Booth, and the Manson “family”. The build up to what occurs is tense, and what follows is a hilarious exploding finish that still finds a way to nicely tie into the friendship of Dalton and Booth.
This is easily my favorite movie of the summer so far and one of the best of the year, so if you don’t mind some of Tarantino’s quirkiness or a movie almost pushing closer to the three hour mark, you owe to yourself to give this excellent film a watch in a theater near you.