What makes a cinephile? Is it someone who knows everything about movies, someone who makes movies, someone who understands the technical side of the film, or is it simply someone who loves all things movie-related? However you define what a cinephile is, under every definition, Quentin Tarantino can always be categorized as one. He is the ultimate movie-nerd and has treated audiences to some of the most entertaining movies to hit the silver screen with his 8 previous films over the past 3 decades. Now, with the release of his 9th and rumored final film, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Tarantino once again invites his viewers into a world he has created for sheer pleasure and enjoyment. The only difference is the world Tarantino has crafted in this movie is about the very thing he is so in love with: film itself.
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” takes place in 1969 and follows Rick Dalton, an aging TV Western star, and his stunt-double/best friend Cliff Booth, as they try to navigate a changing Hollywood that seems to have no place for the once-famous duo. Dalton’s fall from popularity is further emphasized by his new next-door neighbors Roman Polanksi and Sharon Tate, the real-life Hollywood power couple of the 60’s. The plot is wound together by the Manson Family, who are infamously known for killing Tate and several of her friends at her home in the summer of ‘69. Twisting fact with fiction, Tarantino fashions his version of Hollywood that is somehow extremely fun, genuinely raw, and also tragic all at once.
The film is full of A-List actors including Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Al Pacino, Kurt Russel, and more. DiCaprio and Pitt play Dalton and Booth respectively, and their on-screen chemistry is quite simply fantastic. DiCaprio steals the movie with his sometimes sad, but always captivating portrayal of a movie-star whose shine is dwindling, while Pitt brings an unexpected and much appreciated comedic touch to the film. Robbie plays Sharon Tate and does so superbly, capturing Tate’s presence and seemingly bringing her back to life on the screen after so many years. Two smaller roles that were noteworthy came from Margaret Qualley who plays “Pussycat,” a member of the Manson Family, and Julia Butters who plays Trudi Fraser, a child actor who strikes up a friendship with Rick Dalton. Both actresses share the screen with some of the biggest names in Hollywood and not only match their performances, but truly excel in their supporting roles, making for some unforgettable scenes.
Clocking in at 2 hours and 41 minutes, this movie can seem rather daunting to sit through. But because of the witty dialogue, beautifully shot scenes, and memorable performances, I honestly wish there could’ve been more. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” feels so much like a love letter to Hollywood as it is directed, produced, and written by Tarantino himself. His entire life has been dedicated to movies and it seems he is in many ways thanking them with this picture. There are countless nods to the Hollywood of old: from his recreation of 1960’s Hollywood Boulevard and authentic TV/film set pieces of the period to the inclusion of real people and movies from the 60’s. This film transports the viewer to a different place and time and does so in a fantastically captivating manner, all resulting from Tarantino’s direction and Robert Richardson’s cinematography.
Although “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is not my favorite film from Tarantino, it is still one of the better films I’ve seen released this year. I’d personally rank this as a middle-tier Tarantino flick, not by any of its own faults, but just because of how incredible some of his previous films have been. That being said, a place in the middle of the pack of his movies still puts it far over the average film. Tarantino is a master storyteller. He draws you into his movies. When they end you feel almost entranced by what you just watched; his films linger with you long after the credits have stopped rolling.
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is exactly what theaters have been needing this summer. It is both wildly creative and super entertaining, and is sure to leave audiences both laughing and shocked. Although this movie starts a lot slower than other Tarantino films, it is still very compelling throughout, and the last half hour just absolutely sideswipes you in the best way possible. Fans of Tarantino will love this movie, and for viewers who have never seen any of his films before, this is a solid introduction into his filmography (the rest of which I also highly recommend). Go see “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” in theaters now!
Cover Photo: IMDB