Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood Review: A Tale of Master Class Performances

 

Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood is the story Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), a quasi-struggling actor and his stunt double/chauffeur/roof-fixer/best-friend Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Once a thriving star of the screen, Dalton earns his keep by playing villain-of-the-week roles on TV, while Booth is happy for any work whenever he can get it. The pair get embroiled in some unusual affairs once director Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) and actress-wife Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) move in next door.

What works in Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood is the cinematography, art direction, and performances. Writer/director Quentin Tarantino has recreated the Golden Age of Hollywood with impeccable detail and he relishes playing in the world he’s constructed. This extends to both the “real” world, but also the countless media-within-media shots chronicling Dalton’s various jobs across the globe. By the conclusion, it’s hard not to be impressed by Tarantino’s feat to create such an immersive setting that is diverse yet unified.

RELATED: Quentin Tarantino And Sony To Bring Viewers The Films That Inspired Once Upon A Time In Hollywood With The Swinging Sixties

Flowing through this world is a cavalcade of talent. DiCaprio once again is a tour-de-force playing an actor playing multiple parts, but it’s really Pitt who steals the show. As Dalton’s stalwart’s companion, he’s a charming, care-free guide who doles out advice and is loyal almost to a fault. There’s something magnetic about Pitt’s aura and the way he smiles through life in 1969 California, even when things aren’t entirely going his way. It’s possible that both leading men having award nominations in their future, but don’t be surprised if Pitt is able to gain some frontrunner status.

While Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood is quite a ride, some may take issue with the pacing and narrative arc. Tarantino has unquestionably authored a very heartfelt love letter to this particular era of cinema, but his prose is longwinded. While the scenery is gorgeous to look at and the acting exceptional, over the course of two hours and forty minutes, some audiences may start questioning where the purpose is hiding. Audiences who enjoy the journey more than the destination are likely to appreciate Tarantino’s version of history he’s putting on display.

Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood is far more mature than other Tarantino films as the auteur relies more on a sharp script and stunning visuals than violence, but it still retains his signature style. For all those cinephiles who lament, “they just don’t make them like they use to,” this one’s for you.

Recommended if you enjoyed: Hail Caesar!, Inglorious Basterds, The Artist

FINAL GRADE: A-

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