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Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood – Review


– To my right is Bounty Law series lead and JK Hill himself, Rick Dalton. And to my left is Rick’s
stunt double Cliff Booth. – [Jacki] “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Quentin Tarantino’s ninth
and penultimate movie before retiring from feature films, cleverly showcases the writer/director’s encyclopedic knowledge of
cinema and pop culture, while also serving as a loving tribute to a bygone era of films and stars. Despite incorporating many elements of the filmmaker’s
signature style, dark wit, moments of explosive
violence, kitschy references, a great vintage soundtrack,
and an overall cool vibe, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
shows a more sentimental side of the “Kill Bill” filmmaker. And yet, it also displays
many of his self-indulgences and weaknesses. It’s not Tarantino’s best work, but it’s still better
than the best efforts of other filmmakers. – We get into a fight,
I accidentally kill you. I go to jail. – Anybody accidentally
kills anybody in a fight, they go to jail. It’s called manslaughter. – Burn, you Nazi bastards! (laughter) – [Jacki] The movie
reflects the sensibilities of an older and possibly
more thoughtful filmmaker than the indie bad boy
who stormed the industry back in the 90s with “Reservoir
Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction.” There’s still an undeniable coolness exuded throughout this film. Tarantino largely focuses his story, which is primarily set over three days in Hollywood circa 1969, on
washed-up actor Rick Dalton and his best pal, former
stunt-double-turned-flunky, Cliff Booth. Rick is definitely played
with feverish desperation and crumbling vanity by Leonardo DiCaprio, while an almost
transcendentally cool Brad Pitt delivers his best performance
in years as Cliff, whose sun-kissed appearance
belies the inner darkness that’s cost him everything but the affection of his dog and Rick. Cliff is in many ways a more interesting and complex character than the narcissistic and fragile Rick, but DiCaprio and Pitt share
a breezy, boozy chemistry that makes them great
foils for one another. The rest of the film
follows actress Sharon Tate, a beauty whose star is on the rise, as Rick’s is on the decline. Portrayed here as Rick’s
next-door neighbor, Sharon Tate, of course, was a real person, whose brutal death by followers of cult leader Charles Manson has overshadowed her brief film career. Margot Robbie plays her with
a free-spirited vivacity, but the character of Tate
herself is not well-developed. She’s more a symbol of Hollywood dreams than she is a flesh-and-blood protagonist like Rick and Cliff. In the end, you’re left
wondering what Tarantino wanted to feel about them or his film, save for leaving with an appreciation for Hollywood’s yesteryear. That may be enough for
those who want to ruminate on the film industry,
but emotionally speaking, “Once Upon a Time in
Hollywood” and its characters never quite register as strongly as many of Tarantino’s other
films and protagonists. Tarantino has once again
assembled a stellar ensemble cast that includes several
veterans of his past films like Kurt Russell, and
great new additions, such as scene-stealers Mike Moh
as an egotistical Brucel Lee and Julia Butters as a
precocious child actor Rick meets on the set of
a potential comeback role. The film is as much a love letter to the Los Angeles of 1969
as it is to the films, TV shows, and pop culture
of that tumultuous era. Tarantino and his team have painstakingly recreated the greater
LA area of that period and its many landmarks. But did we really need to see every street and stretch of freeway Cliff drives along? And those unnecessarily bloated stretches only make one feel the film’s
nearly three-hour runtime all the more. The film is also chockfull of asides to Rick’s faux movies and TV shows, from his heyday as the star of
the ’50s TV show Bounty Law, to his later spaghetti
westerns, war movies, and exploitation films. These are often hilarious
and spot-on sendups that lovers of B-movies and
the Golden Age of Television will appreciate and laugh
at more than casual, and frankly, younger viewers
who lack a pop cultural context to get the references Tarantino is making. Indeed, “Once Upon a Time in
Hollywood’s” effectiveness depends in large part on one’s fondness for the bygone era Tarantino is honoring. But there are times where Tarantino veers into self-indulgence. There is another, and arguably
larger, curiosity factor for those going to see this film, and that’s the Manson family murders. His interpretation was always
going to prove divisive, and the end results most certainly will. As exploitative and jarring
the whole sequence can be, it also gives the film a jolt
in its uneven second half. While this climax never
matches the masterful building of suspense in an earlier sequence where Cliff encounters the Manson family on an old movie ranch, the home stretch reminds Tarantino fans of the edgy provocateur he started out as after sitting through two-plus hours of slow-moving industry nostalgia. – Hey, you’re Rick (beep)-ing Dalton. Don’t you forget it. (jazzy music) – [Jacki] Quentin Tarantino
doesn’t quite deliver a grand slam with his
penultimate feature film “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” a languid but interesting exploration of a particular time and place and a loving ode to the pop culture that informed his particular
sensibilities as an artist. But it also doesn’t
always land as viscerally or emotionally as it could have, and it never quite develops Sharon Tate as more than an idea. Still, the respective
performances of DiCaprio and Pitt and the film’s meticulous
attention to period detail are all great and keep you
invested in where this cruise around Tinseltown will
ultimately take you. – Line? – Cut! – [Jacki] For more movie reviews, check out what we
thought of “Batman: Hush” and “The Lion King.” And as always, be sure to
follow and subscribe to IGN wherever you like to watch. – What does IGN even mean anyway? It means whatever you want it to mean.

100 Comments

  1. Peter W Author

    Anyone who does not share the connection to that era will review this film without any sense of the brilliant thread running behind the scenes. My blood ran cold as soon as I saw the young girls rummaging through the trash, knowing immediately the significance. The pop cultural references are the movie and Tarantino's twist on history is hilarious.

    Reply
  2. Electricprimate Author

    In my opinion ion Once upon a time in Hollywood was great but it was different from Tarantino’s other movies so I can see why some people wouldn’t like it because it isn’t what they were expecting

    Reply
  3. Aaron Acuna Author

    Gawwwh damn you dumb af IGN 😂 obviously you don’t appreciate true original cinema, there are other movies aside from marvel and Disney

    Reply
  4. Iftii Alam Author

    Once upon a time in Hollywood shows actors who a part of outdated film genres.. but still try to work.

    IGN are an organization of people who ever never the part of the Film Critic community..but still try to act like one..

    Reply
  5. A Fury Author

    1. Pulp Fiction
    2. Inglorious Basterds
    3. Reservoir Dogs
    4. Django Unchained
    5. Planet Terror, Death Proof
    6. the rest, Hateful 8, Once Upon a Time, Kill Bill

    Reply
  6. #godwill rise Author

    I just saw the flim yesterday and at this point it was real. It may take a few days to get it but it gives you a real snap shot of an actors life but more then just that, in an older man life who job it is to act, and the people around him directly or indirectly. How life just plays out and you just never know.

    Reply
  7. David Easton Author

    !*!*!*!*!*!*! SPOILER ALERT (kinda…) !*!*!*!*!*!*!

    Saw it the other day; it was particularly ironic, sitting in the theatre, listening to the audience laugh away at the ending, while (I'm assuming), most (a young Taiwanese audience, in my case; but I imagine this can apply to many of the audiences that will eventually see this film) not knowing the actual history of the event that this film precludes … it's not a "happy ending", but rather the "beginning of a horror show". That feeling was interesting throughout the final 'showdown' scene, as I didn't know when or whether Brad Pitt's face was going to be blown off, or Francesca get gutted … kinda freaky queasy feelings in my stomach…

    I guess the climax could be seen as a foreshadow technique to the horrors to come.But again, without context, what then is accomplished, except the graphic act in itself? And, despite Tarantino's obligatory "style", I think if that was the objective (a foreshadow technique), it could / would have been accomplished much more subtly with even greater effect (as, in my opinion, evidenced by the Spahn Ranch scene).

    But then, it could be that Tarantino is simply providing alternative history (a parallel universe) where the Manson Family murders are in fact thwarted, by the actions of that night over at Dalton's house… ??? And it IS a "happy ending", after all.

    But if that's the case, why? We spend 3 hours waiting for his "joke" ending? That's a little self-indulgent, even for Tarantino … Why not go full-bore fantasy land, instead of such exacting detail in all other accounts of that period of TV and film specifically, and L.A. generally?

    In the end, a "story" still ought to be a "story", in any art form. I think Tarantino lost the "story" in this one somewhere along the way… maybe even from the beginning, just in order to justify his ending, which seems to have come first to his consciousness.

    (There's mention on the film's Wikipedia page of Pitt originally being cast as the investigating officer of the crimes … Wait, WHAT? So the crimes DID happen; or DIDN'T happen; or … Ah, now there's some potential evidence of Tarantino no being sure himself as he was developing the script, leading to the mess that I'm describing here!

    "and that Pitt was in talks to portray the detective investigating the murders." – Wikipedia Page)

    Beyond that, if one isn't old enough (or researched enough) into that particular time period (let alone the cultural gap I refer to regarding sitting in a theatre full of young Taiwanese of which I'm guessing the vast majority can't even relate to Sharon Tate and related murders history the ending hinges on!), then despite the craft of the acting, directing, cinematography, et al, most of the film's script (thus significant humour) would simply be a complete waste of time and effort and energy and commitment and …

    Now, (I guess ???) luckily, I did grow up watching Manix and Lancer, Steve McQueen and The Rifleman, the influence of spaghetti westerns on pop-culture, reading Kid Colt comics, etc. So I (like others of my generation) can appreciate the innumerable humorous references written into the film. But I couldn't help understanding as I sat watching this, how many people wouldn't. Again, is the film made to appease Tarantino's self-interests and indulgences? Obviously, to a great degree.

    But here may lie a valid critical argument: Make the thing and stick it in your basement then. Or show it to some buddies / peers who are going to get it, even. But is that art? Is "art" self-indulgence, or is "art" a means to communicate something to an audience? Tarantino seems to think the former is far more important than the latter. And to me, it's to a fault.

    Reply
  8. Walter Van der Wahl Author

    I just saw this today and while I enjoyed it I felt it was too long and peppered with a few lackluster scenes. The cast and performances were stellar. That part can't be improved. The sets, art direction, costumes, sound track were perfection, but maybe it was the editing that fell short for me? 
    Still I recommend seeing it for any fans of Tarantino.

    Reply
  9. Mufnstuf Author

    Totally disagree. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is one of Tarantino's best films. I may put it right behind Pulp Fiction. This movie will be studied and discussed for decades to come, long after the generic cut & paste Marvel films are disregarded as Hollywood's 'silly superhero phase'. .

    Reply
  10. Rustling Soul Author

    Ms. Jing, spectacular review. You really hit it on the money. What disappoints me is that while this movie is not the best in Tarantino's filmography, it still trounces many movies that IGN has given 8.5 and up. I suppose that's what happens when the skillset of a review team is so varied. I give IGN an 11/10.

    Reply
  11. The Cool Guy Author

    For everyone mad at this rating I must say I just got done watching the movie and I might have to agree with IGN on this one. I really dont know how to feel about this film besides saying the end is truly bizzare and it def didnt need to be as long as it is.

    Reply
  12. Bette Author

    terrible movie except Brad Pitts performance, I did not get it…..still have nightmares about this screaming woman at the end, who was burnt to death wtf

    Reply
  13. Jon Author

    Things like the MCU have ruined cinema imo. People have to see action or hear a joke every 15-30 seconds now or else the movie is "slow" or "boring".
    It used to be that directors would build movies around big moments, memorable set pieces, and cool sequences. Additionally, directors would treat movies as an outgrowth of photography as the narrative was told against the backdrop of one painstakingly built scene after another.
    The MCU however set a trend of force feeding audiences payout with little to no buildup. It's not only cheapened action and humor but conditioned audiences to expect constant gratification.

    You can see the effects with reactions to "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" in how people deride the film for being boring when it's just taking its time, inviting the audience to take in the scenery. I liked the scene of Cliff driving through L.A. listening to music. I liked conversations Rick had about his career. I liked watching him act for TV. These "bloated" scenes serve a purpose. They tell us about the characters and the place and time; they set a mood. They aren't wasteful.

    Reply
  14. mikes5637 Author

    Would have been a 10 from me… if not for the ending. Why does he insist on rewriting history? 7 is fair.
    Can't wait for Tarantino's version of Titanic in which the ship misses the iceberg and arrives safely in New York.

    Reply
  15. The Senate Author

    "did we really need to se every street and freeway cliff drives along?"

    Well, yeah cos there was dialogue happening and those scenes looked amazing

    Reply
  16. john johnny Author

    Pitt and Leo are always A+ but this movie… it’s 2 hours of literally nothing happening and 15minutes of a fun end. 7.8 is pretty damn kind

    Reply
  17. ashdoginc Author

    This movie is certainly not mainstream, and not for everybody. Quentin made a very subtle movie… taking joy from the smaller moments. It's about the pretentiousness and ego of Hollywood. Definitely deserved more than 7.8/10.

    Reply
  18. BRONOOVIAN Author

    Literally my favorite movie. Not just from Quentin but ever. My favorite cast. Favorite time period.
    Reviewer must have been on something hard.

    Reply
  19. Ceyhun ay Author

    Totally agree. People who have no clue about cinema protest against this review just because it is a Tarantino movie. Performances do not always move in the up up up directions, sometimes you do a bad job and this was a bad job. Tarantino shot a movie about Hollywood simply because he loves the phenomenon. But he should have spent a lot less on it and keep the release exclusively to his friend circle.

    Reply
  20. k0walsk Author

    Haven't seen any IGN material in a while, glad to see this well executed review. Can't say it matches my opinion (this movie was friggin excellent) but that's secondary.

    Reply
  21. 10andrico Author

    Tarantino's worst film in my opinion…many long pointless shots of people walking, too many clips of 'old' movies, no tension (apart from a great 10mins scene at the ranch), no real
    interesting storyline….beautifully acted and filmed though.

    Reply
  22. 10andrico Author

    Tarantino's worst film in my opinion…many long pointless shots of people walking, too many clips of 'old' movies, no tension (apart from a great 10mins scene at the ranch), no real
    interesting storyline….beautifully acted and filmed though.

    Reply

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