Quick review of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is one of the films for which I had expectations.

As a Southern Californian, this was a fun trip back to many places I knew and recognize — and you’re there a LONG time. That the film is based loosely adjacent to an event (the Sharon Tate murder) that takes place on the date of my birth was also intriguing. The hype for the film excited me. I’m also a huge Tarantino fan. I felt so strongly about what I saw that I’m writing this.

What we walked out of the theater thinking was this film was an hour too long. For someone who writes THE best dialogue on film, Tarantino wrote little of it. There was a LOT of visual storytelling but unless you were of a certain age AND lived there, you didn’t get this detailed, beautiful and definitive pastiche Tarantino created. The film languished and meandered between long visual pieces to get you from one place to another. A lot of unnecessary driving around.

My wife and I discussed this film at length the day after we saw it. And after all the conversation, the one name we never mentioned was Leonardo DiCaprio. Brad Pitt is fantastic. The rest are fine. And DiCaprio is pretty great, too, but neither of us walked out of the theater thinking what he did was anything other than what he usually does.

I think the criticism about Margot Robbie’s role as Sharon Tate is fair. Not to her. She’s perfect for the role and shines. It’s that the film needed a Sharon Tate role … at all. She appears in it so little and the resolution of the film didn’t even need her or any of the other Tate satellite characters.

Damien Lewis as Steve McQueen was cool. There’s another McQueen-ish moment that’s quite cool. Don’t blink or you’ll miss Damien Harriman as Charles Manson. The Bruce Lee scene sizzles. For that matter, all the best scenes are Pitt’s. It has its moments, but Tarantino could have told a better, tighter story.

I agree with three articles I found afterward that ranked Tarantino films and on those lists, including one from GQ, OUATIH is in the right place, which is about 7th or 8th.

I’ll watch it again when it hits blu-ray, and I know I’ll like it more. I’ll absorb more. I’ll learn more. I’ll appreciate more, but as a movie night fanfare; a sort of cinematic experience the only a big screen can hold? Not really.

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