Film Review: ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD (directed by Quentin Tarantino)

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by Joan Alperin on July 23, 2019

in Film


Being a major Quentin Tarantino fan, I was really looking forward to seeing this film. I just knew I was going to love it. But unfortunately that was not the case.

My biggest problem with the film was that I didn’t really care about the characters. The one exception is Margot Robbie, who plays Sharon Tate, the late wife of director Roman Polanski, and one of Charles Manson’s victims. Robbie brings a beautiful childlike innocence to Sharon. This is especially obvious when she sneaks into a movie theater to watch her film The Wrecking Crew. Her eyes fill with such pure joy and wonderment while she watches herself on screen that you just can’t help but fall in love with Sharon. Of course knowing what is about to befall her, makes it even more poignant.

The main star of the film is however is Hollywood in 1969 and thanks to Tarantino’s excellent design team, he perfectly captures the time period, recreating the streets of the city with its billboards, Hollywood marquees, music on the radio, cars, clothes etc. I only wish the characters were as good as the production.

When the film opens we meet Wild West TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) whose once booming career is now heading downhill fast. His television series Bounty Law has been canceled and despite the best efforts of his agent Marvin Schwartz (Al Pacino) the only jobs he can get his client are guest spots on other TV shows.

Marvin wants Rick to move to Rome where his fleeting fame could lead him to become a major box office draw in the spaghetti western genre.

Meanwhile Rick’s longtime laid back stuntman/best friend, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) is involved in a violent scandal that makes all the woman in town hate him. There is a really fun scene between Booth and a guy who’s obviously supposed to be Bruce Lee (Mike Moh). The two of them get into a fight which garnered major applause at the screening I attended.

Various actors such as Damian Lewis as Steve McQueen and Timothy Olyphant as James Stacy make cameo appearances who represent stars of that era.

In between following Rick and Cliff as they make their way around town, we meet the Manson Family but they are basically on the periphery of the film except for one scene that occurs toward the end.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which opens in theaters Friday, July 26, is Tarantino’s homage to old Hollywood. It’s obvious he has a great love for this period, but for me the film just didn’t work.

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