‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ Review

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Volunteer writer Sophie Alexander gives us her take on Tarantino’s ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.’

‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ is a snapshot into 1960’s Golden Age of film and follows the difficulties of a Hollywood legend remaining relevant. Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, the film focuses upon Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) an actor, most famous for his Western roles and Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), Rick’s stunt double. Despite these being our main protagonists, they both live drastically different lifestyles with Cliff returning home to his caravan whilst Rick drinks alone in his mansion.

The immense amount of love and attention to detail that was poured into this film was evident from the outset. From watching, you felt drawn into this world of flower power hippies and reckless freedom. I wouldn’t say the film is particularly gripping until the last 10-15 minutes, which may not satisfy those, who are fans of the more violent aspects. This reckless freedom may have spilled into the direction with the second act lacking in tension and build up. However, the lack of a strong narrative doesn’t hinder the film but makes for an intriguing and immersive viewing experience.

The intertwining story of Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), one of Charles Manson’s victims, aims to rewrite history like in Tarantino’s previous films (Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained, for example). It is often said that the Charles Manson killings marked the end of the 60’s and this playful rewrite is perhaps the directors wish that the peace and love had continued. Though this creates an interesting perspective, the film relies a lot on the audience having this knowledge prior to viewing and can make you feel stupid for not picking up on the references.

Some may argue that a film from such a prestigious director shouldn’t need to use big Hollywood names to draw people in, however I find DiCaprio and Pitt’s acting in this film outstanding and they manage to perfectly hit home the films message. The character development of Rick as he goes through various stages of his acting career is played remarkable well by DiCaprio. The character is played so seriously that it becomes hilarious, yet had the character been in on the joke, it wouldn’t have worked as well. DiCaprio allows Pitt’s character to take forward a lot of the comedy and this balance really works and pays off. The pair have great chemistry and you can tell they’re invested in their characters. Margot Robbie’s portrayal of Sharon Tate, for the little she was on screen, was entrancing. However, the film may fall under sexist criticism as Tate has no character growth and our lens of her is through a male gaze.

I would say if you’re someone who is more into the narrative and action of a Tarantino film, then you might not find this film is for you. Overall, I would recommend seeing this movie. Even if it’s not one of Tarantino’s best, it’s still very enigmatic and rather captivating.

My rating: 4/5

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