Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, 2019 - ★★★★½ (contains spoilers)

This review may contain spoilers.

The 9th movie from Quentin Tarantino is not his best ever but it's without a doubt his funniest and "coolest" as we get an inside look at the Hollywood machine in the late 60's. The film focuses on 1969 Los Angeles as we lead up to the infamous Sharon Tate murders in the Hollywood hills. The movie looks fantastic and gives an authentic feel to that time in the movie business. We get to see numerous scenes of back-lot banter on various sets and we actually feel that we've snuck on to actual Hollywood sets.

The real catalysts of this movie's engine are Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt who give two of the best performances of their careers as fledgling actor Rick Dalton and his stunt man Cliff Booth. Tarantino wisely spends a lot of time with these two best friends and there are quippy lines and laughs a plenty. DiCaprio in particular plays the grizzled veteran actor role to a tee and should be in Best Actor consideration come Oscar time. Pitt is more restrained but still gives a perfect nuanced performance as Dalton's reliable buddy.

Margot Robbie is beautiful and effective as Sharon Tate in a limited role but a role that helps ground the movie in Hollywood reality. The way Tarantino sprinkles in real-life celebrities into the mix with the made-up Dalton/Booth combo is a bold choice but one that definitely pays off. The audio in this film is all over the place as Tarantino drills into your ear songs from the era as well as countless advertisements and commercials. I felt like I was playing Grand Theft Auto at times with all the in-car radio ad snippets.

This film flew by and I never really noticed the 160-minute-plus runtime while watching it. I was too invested in the two leads and just wanted to keep the ride going. It's rare that we get to see such an excellent chemistry between these two leads (and two of the biggest movie stars we have today). Tarantino was the perfect director to tell this story and to get these performances out of these actors.

NOTE SPOILERS BELOW --- STOP READING IF YOU DON'T WANT TO BE SPOILED BY THE ENDING OF THE FILM.

There seems to be a lot of controversy about the film's ending and the way Tarantino chose to handle the Sharon Tate murders. I absolutely LOVED the decision Quentin made to re-write history and have Booth and Dalton kill the Manson gang before they could get to the Polanski house. I just assumed that Booth and Dalton were gonna be slaughtered in the process but having been so invested in both characters I was downright giddy when Booth started taking out the Manson gang. Dalton's final flamethrower flambe was the icing on the cake for me. I just totally enjoyed this ending which nearly catapulted my rating to 5 stars.

This is simply a fun time at the cinema and Tarantino has given us a feel-good buddy-film that lives and breathes in a certain era.