This past weekend the 9th film of Quentin Tarantino premiered to a rocking critical reception and $40 million domestic box office debut. Even though it took me a while to watch this compared to other films I saw on premiere night (blame me being broke on that, but god do I love discount Tuesdays) I still managed to watch this as soon as possible. Now before I even start to explore this film I need to reiterate that I will be talking spoilers here, so go ahead and keep reading at your own discretion.
Spoilers for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood are ahead.
With Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino crafts his most delicate work to date. The love letter to old Hollywood is a pleasure to watch from beginning to end. The film follows Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) and Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) as a stuntman and actor trying to maneuver a changing landscape of Hollywood in 1969. The film also follows the Manson Family murders most notably that of Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). Tarantino uses the murders as the backdrop for the film but deep at its core this is a love letter to a bygone era of filmmaking.
Once again Robert Richardson’s cinematography reaches incredible heights in this film. Those shots of following Cliff drive through the streets of Los Angeles feels so seamlessly crafted. One aspect of the cinematography that I adored was the use of the dutch angles which transported me to all the Alfred Hitchcock films I watched last semester. The classic film feeling is synonymous with the use of dutch angles and every time that Tarantino pulled them out I was enthralled. The use of music, sound design, and production design is just delightful and honestly I could look at every single frame from this movie for hours on end.
How could I get to this point in this review without speaking on the performances by Pitt, DiCaprio, and Robbie. Margot Robbie truly embodies Sharon Tate and I could feel her presence throughout this whole film. Closer to the film’s end I could feel the waterworks start without knowing that Tarantino would use a revisionist trope here. You truly fall in love with Sharon Tate’s love for her career and that scene of her smiling and loving the reactions to her performance in The Wrecking Crew. It feels as if you are reacting with the audience in the film and get to see the happiness of Tate projected to you. I won’t lie but I truly felt some tears at that point because you see Tate at her most vulnerable and happy in the film. On the other hand, Leo and Brad Pitt create the best duo I have seen in a very long time on the big screen. Brad Pitt does an incredible job as the great friend and biggest supporter of Rick Dalton, but it is Leonardo DiCaprio who shines the brightest throughout this film. Leo steals every scene he is in and goes above and beyond especially during his temper tantrum after he messes up some lines on set of a western.
Now lets talk about that ending (seriously guys SPOILERS AHEAD)…
After coming back with a beautiful Italian wife and a loyal Cliff Booth from shooting spaghetti westerns in Italy, Rick Dalton decides to have one last night in LA with Cliff before he has to let him go because he just cannot afford his services anymore. After a night of Mexican food and margaritas at his residency a drunk Dalton confronts four of the original Manson Family murderers and orders them to get out of his driveway before he calls the cops. They listen but decide to return to kill those who “taught them to kill” AKA Rick Dalton and the actors portraying characters on their TV sets. One of the members manages to run away in a very comedic way so it leaves three to get the job done. A very stoned Cliff is cornered by three of the murders he met months ago when he gave a ride to Pussycat back to their ranch. A bloody fight ensues in the most Tarantino fashion by the help of the world’s greatest dog and a drunk Rick Dalton using a flamethrower from his old WWII film he was in. This saves the life of Sharon Tate and her unborn child which sadly was not the same fate for her in the real life events of August 6th, 1969. As a wounded Cliff is being driven to the hospital and Rick reassures him as him being a great friend, Rick finally gets invited into the Tate-Polanski residence to meet Sharon and have a drink with them, which may or may not reignite his career. Audiences knew that was not what Tarantino was doing with that emotionally charged final shot. That was his way of changing the outcome of a horrific event and allowing the audience to escape into a cathartic experience as we imagine a life without the brutal murder of a lovely actress.
All and all, through a tough second act that has some minor gripes, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood was a visceral experience. One that I did not expect from the 9th film in Tarantino’s filmography. Filled with comedy, bloody action that only Tarantino can craft in his own style, incredible technical merits, and performances that will leave you impressed. Even as the film was ending I did not want those credits to start because I wanted this love letter to never reach its last period. What did you think about the 9th film of Quentin Tarantino? Let us know!