Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Film Review

Another Quentin Tarantino hit in the books

Released in late July, Quentin Tarantino’s newest drama film hit $283.5 million in the box office for its undeniable novelty and meaningful prowess as a film. Though Once Upon a Time in Hollywood emulates several other Tarantino classics with its long running time of two hours and 40 minutes as well as extensive graphic violence, this film was nothing like his other features. 

There was something about Once Upon a Time that left you shocked, confused, and yet completely satisfied all at the same time. Starring modern film giants Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Margot Robbie, this film definitely captures the essence of true Hollywood.

Some might say that the film’s length hinders its greatness, making it unnecessarily ongoing with the storyline of certain characters. For instance, some of the scenes describing the life of Rick Dalton, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, were very detailed and seemingly trivial to the purpose of the film. 

DiCaprio’s character is an actor himself, so there were many scenes of Dalton rehearsing lines and physically acting on the studio lot. At some points, this acting went on for over fifteen minutes. It was just Dalton doing his scenes for the day and then beating himself up for when he messed up his lines or didn’t approve of his own performance. 

When I first left the theatre, I thought to myself, there definitely did not have to be so much detail into the life of Dalton when it came to his acting. There could have been ways to perhaps imply that acting was important to him, rather than showing his ongoing attempt at certain scenes for the Western he was filming. 

But the more I thought about it, the more I began to realize how wrong I was. Of course these scenes needed to be included in the film, they are the components that tied together the movie in its entirety! You could easily see Dalton as an arrogant drunk, but the scenes of him beating himself up over his mistakes on set show you his drive for immaculate performances. 

As an outsider, it makes you empathize with him. These are the details that Tarantino carefully included so that the audience could really sculpt, in their own minds, the true image of Dalton and his commitment and passion as an actor in old Hollywood. 

This type of writing is what makes a Tarantino film a Tarantino film. It is the perfection and precision of detail, no matter how long that might take, that contributes to the development of Tarantino’s protagonist and subsidiary characters. What some critics might call lengthy and unnecessary, Tarantino and his admirers call genius. 

He also ties in Charles Manson and how Manson’s cult is one of the underlying anecdotes that altered the lives of many actors during this time, including Dalton in the film. 

Going into the film, I did not know much about the Manson murders, however once I researched it after seeing Once Upon a Time, I personally commend Tarantino for the way he included that information in his work. It was subtle in my opinion. It was included in a way where the Manson material did not overshadow Tarantino’s intention of making the movie about Rick Dalton and his life. 

However, Tarantino includes slight details like Sharon Tate’s involvement and the violent acts of the hippies, otherwise known as Manson’s cult, through an extremely in-depth and violent scene at the film’s conclusion. He perfectly captured the essence of the time, while not overdoing it whereas it would tarnish the meaning of the film.

In essence, I found this film to be very well-done. Tarantino, DiCaprio, Pitt, and Robbie all contribute to the film’s nature in being an admirable ode to old Hollywood. Considering this day and age where old Hollywood has transitioned to what some might call “new Hollywood,” I think Once Upon a Time has the perfect mixture of modernity and archaism. 

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood made it big in the box office, but also surprised us with its intriguing story and outstanding acting performances. It would be nice if more movies went back to being made with the intention of being great, rather than the intention of selling the most tickets. 


Kristen ContiComment