‘Once Upon A Time in Hollywood’s amazing direction and screenplay, paired with stellar acting is the recipe for a near-perfect film — despite some minor flaws that prevent it from being his best.
Actor Rick Dalton and stuntman Cliff Booth struggle to remain relevant in the changing Hollywood landscape of 1969.
Quentin Tarantino directs his 9th film with a passion that is palpable even from the first shot of this film. His crisp direction and magnetic editing captures your attention in a way not often seen in cinema today, but frankly, it’s no surprise: Tarantino has proven time and time again that he’s one of the best living directors, and quite possibly of all time. Much of his stylish films have now become staples of modern cinema and captured the attention of even mainstream moviegoers to the point of his films becoming an event. But definitely, something has changed here. Long gone are the almost self-aware editing choices, exaggerated shots and violence present to mostly delight before; with this film, we get a much mature Tarantino that has seldom been seen before, opting to use more subtle choices in favor of the script and letting the story breathe, which might come as a surprise to many. His staple ordering of “chapters” is also curiously gone, which admittedly works well in this case. Are they gone forever? Who knows, but although Tarantino does show a side that might not appeal to as many people as before, you can tell he doesn’t really care, and by the final 20 minutes you can see the “old” him come back in a fascinating way.
In many ways, Tarantino has become as skilled a writer as he is a filmmaker, and his progression has allowed to tell stories that are much more deep than they might seem. While I do miss and overall prefer what he was doing with ‘Inglorious Basterds’ and ‘Django’, with ‘The Hateful Eight’ and this film, it feels like a new chapter in his career that is as fresh as ever, and you have to commend him for that. ‘Once Upon A Time in Hollywood’ never seems too obvious or hits you over the head with anything, but instead lets you know the characters in very telling scenes that serve the stories. And while sometimes some storylines are not as explored as they could have been (especially regarding a plot point about Brad Pitt’s character), you can’t shake the feeling that maybe that’s the point: instead of trying to paint the situation black and white, he’s allowing the idea of the “grayness” of his characters to stay with you.
It’s almost ridiculous to pint out, but, of course, the film features amazing performances. Both Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt deliver incredibly deep work that pays off by the end, especially regarding Pitt, who probably does the best work of his career. Margot Robbie is also great in what is mostly an extended cameo.
In the end, ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is a different kind of Tarantino film, one that can feel a bit overlong at times and might miss the mark in certain story points, but the talent at display both behind and in front of the camera is undeniable, crafting a beautiful, funny and meaningful film about Hollywood that is sure to be talked about, as usual for him, for many years to come.