A Critique of Once Upon a Time In Hollywood

The ninth film by auteur Quinten Tarantino is one of his best and most personal yet. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood tells the story of TV actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) as they struggle to stay afloat in the ever-shifting landscape of Hollywood. The movie set in 1969 also revolves around the real-life Charles Manson and his family, as-well-as his real-life victim Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie).

For Tarantino who was born in Los Angeles and grew up around the same time the film is set, the movie is a very personal one. From the insane details put into the streets to the radio which is omnipresent throughout, the movie presents audiences with a real-world and one that is easy to get lost in. So much so that when the credits started I was dumbfounded because I thought the movie was only halfway through, that’s how lost I was in the story. Tarantino’s immense care for the world of the film can also be seen through the characters whether its a real-life character like Bruce Lee or a fictional one such as Rodney (Kurt Russell), all are let to live again in the world and feel as though they continue to live even after the final credits rolled.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood isn’t your average Tarantino film either, the film lacks the constant violence that films like Django and Pulp Fiction are known for. Nor is the film as concretely focused as films like Kill Bill or The Hateful 8. Hollywood’s plot is focused but in a wavering and more fluid fashion, much of the film inhabits the area that would be background noise in other film but while this may seem to be a flaw it makes for some incredibly enjoyable moments that really flesh out the characters and the world.

But even though this isn’t your average Tarantino film at its core it still has all the things that make his films so fun. There is still the smart and witty dialogue, beautiful and captivating cinematography, graphic violence and of course an amazing soundtrack. More than anything this film shows that in the 27 years since Reservoir Dogs premiered at Sundance, Tarantino hasn’t slowed down at all and hopefully won’t anytime soon.