"Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" (2019)- Movie Review

Written and Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie

‘An Unforgettable Trip to Los Angeles’

Few filmmakers in the world have established a trademark style as unique as Quentin Tarantino. Ever since he launched his career with 1994’s “Pulp Fiction”, Tarantino has proven to have a distinct style of making movies. His films have always relied on a successful formula to please fans. You immediately know what to expect when you’re watching a Tarantino movie: bloody violence, witty dialogue and colorful characters. While Tarantino’s distinct style has earned him a huge fan following, it has also garnered a fair share of haters. To put it simply, his movies are not meant for everyone. Nevertheless, this hasn’t stopped the filmmaker from producing original and inventive work throughout his illustrious career.

Now, Tarantino is back on the big-screen and his love of Cinema is clearly evident in his latest film “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”. With his ninth feature, Tarantino has crafted a rousing love letter to Los Angeles and the industry he grew up in. It is not easy to re-create the time period of the 1960’s, but the filmmaker pulls it off effortlessly. Using a sharp screenplay and terrific performances from a star-studded cast, Tarantino creates a stunningly authentic portrait of 1960’s Los Angeles. Although “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is extremely entertaining, it is not a film without flaws. At nearly three hours, the film is overlong and there are times when it tests the viewer’s patience. That being said, it offers old-fashioned entertainment that fans of Quentin Tarantino won’t be able to resist.

Set in 1969 Los Angeles, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” follows the lives of an aging actor and his stunt double as they struggle to achieve fame in the film industry. Leonardo DiCaprio stars in the lead role as Rick Dalton, a faded television star whose career has reached its peak. With support from his long-time friend and stunt-double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), Rick strives to keep his career going in a changing industry. When the stars cross paths with the Manson cult, their lives forever change as they experience the final moments of Hollywood’s golden era.

It is then that we are swept into a glorious vision of 1960’s L.A. that showcases Tarantino’s love of Cinema. With “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”, Tarantino pays homage to the city of L.A., spaghetti western genre and industry of Hollywood. It is the director’s first stab at creating a period-piece set in the 1960’s. It is not easy to re-create a time period from the past, but Tarantino pulls it off seamlessly. Working alongside cinematographer Robert Richardson, the filmmaker creates a mesmerizing portrait of L.A. in the 1960’s. Using gorgeous cinematography, Tarantino transports viewers back to a time that defined the industry of Hollywood. From intense close-ups to grand establishing shots, the cinematography captures the city extremely well. As a viewer, you truly feel transported back to Los Angeles in the 1960’s. Tarantino excels in recreating the time period, and his latest film is worth watching on the big-screen for this reason alone.

If gorgeous production values are not what attract you to the theater, though, there are still plenty of other reasons to see “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”. The film is extremely well-written and offers great insights into the industry of Hollywood in 1969. Tarantino’s screenplay is one of the main highlights of the movie and showcases his usual knack for screenwriting. Filled with fascinating characters, witty dialogue and hilarious situations, the script elevates the movie to another level. Tarantino’s greatest strength as a screenwriter has always been his ability to create compelling characters, and it is evident in this film. For example, Rick and Cliff are two fascinating actors that offer insights into the industry. Despite it’s lengthy running time, Tarantino uses an engaging screenplay to keep viewers engrossed throughout the movie.

In terms of acting, the entire cast is at the top of its game. In the year’s most star-studded ensemble, every actor gets the chance to shine and leave a lasting impression.

Leonardo DiCaprio delivers one of the best performances of his career as Rick Dalton. This is the actor unlike you’ve ever seen him before: intense, charismatic and vulnerable in his most personal role to date. With riveting expressions, he captures the struggles of a movie-star whose career is on the decline. It’s a role that allows DiCaprio to express his emotional range and tap into his personal experiences as an actor. For instance, a scene in which he has a nervous breakdown on set is the most emotional and vulnerable work he has ever done. It’s a remarkable performance from one of the most seasoned actors working today.

Brad Pitt is fantastic in the role of a relaxed and laid-back stunt-man. While DiCaprio gets the showier role, Pitt is equally excellent and worthy of awards recognition. Whether he is flirting with a hippie girl or fighting with Bruce Lee, Pitt radiates charm and charisma in every scene. It’s a scene-stealing role that allows the actor to bring out his natural charisma and have a blast of fun. After a long career hiatus, it’s a joy to see the world’s finest movie-star back on the big-screen.

Although “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is undeniably entertaining, ultimately it is not a film without flaws. At nearly three hours, it is overlong and suffers from a lengthy running time. With the help of an energetic soundtrack, Tarantino keeps the film moving at an engaging pace during the first hour. However, once the film enters its final act, it starts to lose steam and test the viewer’s patience. Moreover, Tarantino gets a little carried away and goes overboard with the ending. Tarantino’s decision to end the film in a bloodbath is bold, unexpected and shocking. However, the ending does not entirely work. Instead of bringing the story to a satisfying conclusion, it simply leaves viewers disturbed. Due to its controversial ending, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is one of those films that will not appeal to everyone.

Nevertheless, fans of Quentin Tarantino’s previous films will definitely enjoy “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and so will movie-goers seeking original entertainment this summer season. A glowing tribute to Cinema, it proves that Tarantino hasn’t lost the ability to produce original films. At a time when Hollywood seems to be running out of ideas, it is reassuring to be reminded that movies like “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” are still getting made.

4/5 stars

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