Very few directors have managed to form such an impressive, culturally impactful catalogue of movies like Tarantino. In his first two movies alone, he showcased his talent not only as a director but also as a writer. Since then, despite some bumps along the way, he has become one of the finest visionaries of our lifetime. Consistently pushing the boundaries in regards to story, character creation and his infamously gratuitous use of violence.
Whether of not this would for sure be Tarantino’s curtain call as a director, it was expected that he would go out on a high note. One last timeless display of impeccably well written characters, a surprisingly genius soundtrack, tense yet often humorous action sequences and an uncomfortable amount of feet shots.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood feels far different from anything else he has released before. By that I mean aside from a few obvious creative decisions, this feels like a movie that could have been directed by a handful of people. It lacks the aforementioned trademarks that you would often affiliate with the director and it primarily focuses on a character driven narrative to such an extent, that the majority of the story fails to really tell something compelling and ultimately worthwhile.
The stories main focus falls on the characters of Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) and Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). Rick Dalton is an actor struggling to transition from his usual roles of Western television to a new era of Hollywood, with loyal friend and stunt double Cliff Booth, whos career relies on Dalton’s success. Although their story is fundamentally intertwined, there are large lumps of the movie in which the two create separate journeys in a typically Tarantino-esque setting. Robbie’s portrayal of Sharon Tate feels far less developed despite remaining a key element of the narrative. If you’re familiar with her story then it isn’t too difficult to understand how she falls into place.
This is likely to be one of Tarantino’s more divisive efforts. The pacing feels unfamiliar, slogging its way through two thirds of the movie, with a few great moments to split up an otherwise slow and dull endeavour. It takes a long time for the movie to reach recognisable grounds but when it does, we’re given a finale that only such an esteemed director would ever be able to get away with.
Despite being a wonderfully shot, rich, atmospheric ode to the golden era of cinema, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood spends too much time recreating and living in such a glamerous world, that the substance of story feels completely incoherent. Whilst there’s plenty of charm (mainly coming from its leading actors), it doesn’t do enough to fill the huge cracks within its drawn out and ultimately pointless storytelling. On first impressions, Once Upon a Time… falls somewhere in the middle of Tarantino’s filmography. It constantly hinders with potential but breaks down by offering something different from the expected.