In what could be the most un-Tarantino Quentin Tarantino movie made to this point, “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” is a film that I am still trying to figure out. At two and a half hours, this might be a problem, but I am not for sure it is.
Like I said, I am still trying to figure it out.
Here is what I have so far without falling too far down the rabbit hole: it’s 1969, and Leonardo DiCaprio plays Rick Dalton, an actor living on past popularity but can see irrelevance on the horizon. After he gets an offer to do something he feels beneath him, he and his long-time stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) try to hold on to what they have left. Meanwhile, if you know your history, you know that there is a LOT going on in Hollywood that year.
In typical Tarantino fashion, this thing is star-studded: Margot Robbie, Al Pacino, Emile Hirsch, Dakota Fanning, Timothy Olyphant, and Luke Perry are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg here. Everyone gets their moment in a way that doesn’t ever crowd the frame, and somehow, the talented writer/director is able to even get Pacino to reel it in for his role while getting DiCaprio to turn it up to eleven (which is required for the role that he is playing). Pitt has gotten to the point where he is starting to reflect Redford (especially in the time frame this takes place in), and that is in no way, shape, or form a bad thing: the dude is just THAT good. Shot beautifully and really letting Tinseltown show itself off with laser-precision accuracy spoiled me even more, multiplied by the fact that our screening was a 35mm print that was done so old school that it wasn’t even all put together an put on a platter; rather, it was done via dual projectors in a way that even pre-dates my projection experience in high school.
But again, I am still trying to figure it out.
There are some nice nods to Tarantino’s previous films (unless I am digging WAY too deeply on this), and it seems like he is trying to replicate to a point the story style he was known for in “Pulp Fiction,” but the story itself just doesn’t seem to land anywhere. From a certain aspect, life itself tends to do the same thing, and if that is where he is trying to go here, maybe that’s it. It is paced well and pretty creepy in a few sections, but I am just not sure if it is worth another viewing to find out if I was missing anything.
Much like “The Hateful Eight,” this is worth a theater viewing, especially if you get the opportunity to see it in the same way I did in order to remember what 35mm film looks like, but go into “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” with no real expectations so you cannot come out disappointed overall.