August 28, 2019 – Vinz Lamorena
Quentin Tarantino brings us to a facet in history where truth and fiction reside. It is a film that motions us into a recalibrated past, where the camera moves us along like a spectator right in the sidelines of its scenes. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” essentially a tale about loyalty and friendship, thrills and humors us from the get-go.
It’s got a stellar cast led by Leonardo Di Caprio and Brad Pitt, where the two play an inseparable duo of a Western leading man and his trusty stunt double, respectively. Don’t be fooled by the roles they play, these two superstars go off in equal footing. If anything, Pitt’s heroics actually outshine the brilliance of the Dicaprio’s fleeting moments of self-discovery.
The audience is immediately introduced to Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) and the stellar career he’s had. The only problem is, the actor’s fame has plateaued, he’s got drinking problems, and the only available path forward seems to be career suicide. But Rick finds it in himself to embody the roles Hollywood now throws at him, despite his resentment for change and anything that represents it. It’s no surprise, but DiCaprio is always a joy to watch on screen.
A whole lot of “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is bland and boring. But the good news is, it redeems itself halfway through the film. It brings the slow and static charms and banter of technicolor films to gradually match the taste of a modern audience. The comedy also finds the right spots. More importantly, Tarantino is able to reconstruct a bygone era and make it feel no less than real in ways no one else can.
Now dealing with the Manson Family murders has death looming over the movie the entire time. It’s exactly this American crime story element that keeps the audience on edge, having them guess the part where the tragedy begins. It wasn’t like Tarantino to hold back on conflict, but he orchestrated friction with a suspenseful hand. Each time you feel a deadly confrontation coming along, his characters are able to breeze through it.
Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) turns out to be a more interesting lead, and is essential in mounting Tarantino’s most emotional film yet. It is in Cliff that “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood’s” strata is more emphasized as he dwells in the middle of it. He’s got the cowboy instincts and that laidback hippie attitude, and brings both worlds together. There's no denying that Pitt took the audience through exhilarating and thrilling scenes with such instinctive bravado.
Ironically, the film doesn’t show much of Sharon Tate, the actress at the center of Cielo Drive’s most famous incident. In fact, Margot Robbie was made to portray the glitz and glamour of old Hollywood and nothing more. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’s” lack of strong female figures can be interpreted as part of the either the director’s critique of the industry’s male dominance or the support of it (and it’s most likely the latter).
For all the big names it has in its credits, “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood” is a whole lot of fun—but when the fire-torching ends and the blood dries out, it’s also a whole lot forgettable.
“Once Upon A Time in Hollywood” is now showing in cinemas nationwide. Photos courtesy of Columbia Pictures.
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