"Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" Review

Quentin Tarantino's latest release is... disappointing.

Whether you love or hate the films that comprise Tarantino's body of work, it's worth commending that he has consistently made films that are unique to his creative voice and style as opposed to giving too many years away, watering all those unique parts of himself down in order to work on adaptations of other already established works.

"Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" is based around many of Tarantino's staples as a filmmaker including a romanticisation of old Hollywood, history revision, and lively camera work. The strongest parts of the film are mostly technical components, such as the cinematography and performances from the lead actors. However, the fundamental flaws lie in the story itself.

An important detail to remember about "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" is the fact that the run time is three hours long. When adapting a story that is prioritising an intimate exploration of characters and their emotional state, there needs to be enough happening in the plot to justify the three hours run time. There is an excessive amount of meandering along and little to no payoff when various plot points are introduced. Charles Manson only makes a brief appearances and when the finale comes and Sharon Tate is spared her gruesome fate, the most prominent feeling that is conjured is confusion.

What exactly is the audience supposed to rejoice in? An actress is spared a gruesome death at the hands of some cult members. Never mind the fact that the cult is still very much intact and its leader, Charles Manson, is still free to wreak all the other havoc of his run before he was caught and sentenced to prison. She's also pregnant with... Roman Polanski's baby. The words "mixed emotions" aren't adequate enough to convey the awkwardness of trying to process the film's ending.

The absence of Tarantino's most bombastic flair in the filmmaking leaves a hollow shell of a film with dull lead characters that offer little to no substance in character arcs. Brad Pitt in particular plays practically nothing during his run time, with his most memorable scene being that of a highly controversial encounter with a depiction of Bruce Lee that was deemed so terrible that Lee's daughter and friends have spoken out against it following the film's release. Apparently Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt were given giant stacks of back story from Tarantino about their characters and shared history to better inform them of who they were playing. If only we the audience had been given even a fraction of that information, perhaps the three hours could have been worth it.


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