FlixChatter Review: ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD (2019)

Quentin Tarantino’s last two films were westerns, both were a tribute to his favorite genre, the spaghetti western. He’s now back with another tribute, this time to his favorite film decade and town, the 60s in Hollywood. Specifically 1969, the year that many people have said changed the Hollywood movie industry.

Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) was once a popular leading man starring in a hit western show in the 50s. But when his show got cancelled, his star power went with it. He’s only able to land villainous role but still had hopes that some director will hire him as the leading man in their film or TV show. On a night out with his best friend/body double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), they ran into a film producer named Marvin Schwarzs (Al Pacino).

Schwarzs made a proposition to Dalton, go to Italy and be a leading man in their Western films. Dalton was of course offended; he thinks he’s above that kind of films and doesn’t want to work outside of Hollywood. Obviously, QT is using Clint Eastwood’s real-life career as a model for Dalton’s in this film. Dalton decided to accept another villainous role in a western show starring James Stacy (Timothy Olyphant). He also tried to get his buddy Cliff some stunt work on the new show.

But Cliff’s reputation around town isn’t good, so when Dalton’s at work, he drives around Hollywood and one day meets a hippie named Pussycat (Margaret Qualley). Pussycat belongs to Charles Manson’s cult. Any fans of QT knows that his films don’t really have a plot, it just random things happening to the characters on the screen. And this film is no different. He introduced a bunch of famous people at that period of time including Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) who happens to be a neighbor of Dalton’s. The entire film is kind of a build-up to the murder of Tate’s and her friends by the Manson cult members.

Performances by DiCaprio and Pitt were great. DiCaprio really embraced the has-been actor role and he’s hilarious in every scene he’s in. Pretty sure he’ll get another Oscar nomination. Pitt’s character on the hand is more reserved. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t have any funny lines, some of the scenes with Cliff were quite funny. Including a scene where he has a tussle with Bruce Lee (Mike Moh). Robbie’s Tate on the hand, was more like a fantasy role. It’s hard to explain but maybe because Tate’s career was cut short because she was murdered and we don’t know much about her, and it’s the reason why QT wrote the character this way.

Visually, this is another stunning film shot by Tarantino’s regular cinematographer Robert Richardson. QT is one of the few filmmakers left in Hollywood that still prefer shooting in film, so this picture has that old school film look to it. With a reported budget of close to $100mil, QT’s largest production budget, he’s able to create the look and feel of the late 60s that I assume anyone who’s alive around that time would appreciate.

I don’t consider this to be one of QT’s best film, I think it’s middle of the road. At close to 3 hours longs, the film needed some further editing. There were several scenes that should’ve been cut or shorten. I think this is where QT’s longtime late editor Sally Menke would’ve helped and probably would’ve made the film a bit tighter. Also, the music selection and themes were quite forgettable. Many of his previous films contained great music but not this one.

It may not be one of his best work but it’s still better than many of the films currently playing in theaters right now. If you’re a fan of the actors or QT, then I would recommend you see this one at your local theater.


So have you seen ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD? Well, what did you think?

9 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD (2019)

  1. Vitali Gueron

    Great review Ted! I also liked Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood quite a bit. I especially the second half of the movie, where QT deals with the Tate murders by the Manson cult. Once of my favorite scenes is when Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) visits the Spahn Movie Ranch and insists that he check in on George Spahn (Bruce Dern) and kicks some Manson cult follower’s behind. What did you think of the scenes shot on the Spahn Movie Ranch?

    1. Thanks Vitali. Yeah that scene at the ranch was pretty good, I thought for sure some thing bad was going to happen to Cliff. Knowing how QT likes to shock the audience with some really violent sequence that you didn’t see coming, I thought Cliff’s journey might come to an end in that scene.

  2. Good job Ted. I have often pushed back on QT’s movies for a variety of reasons. I’m posting my review of this one tomorrow so I won’t rehash it here, but I’ll say I think this is indeed his best film. I’ve seen it twice already and it’s still swirling around in my mind.

  3. Thanks Keith. I’ll head over to your site and read your review.

    Wow, you it twice already! I typically see QT’s films at least twice at a theater but I don’t have the desire to see this one again anytime soon. It’s not one of his best to me, middle of the road when it comes to his films. I’ve been saying this for years ever since his editor Sally Menke passed away, his last few films needed tighter editing. Menke knew how to cut out a lot of scenes that were too much of an indulgent. For example in this film, in the early part of the film, we didn’t see to see Brad Pitt’s Cliff driving around Hollywood streets for that long before he arrived at his place.

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