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Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood Movie Review

Say Goodbye to "Hollywood"

Moments of Quentin Tarantino's new movie "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" suggest a calmer and more reflective side of the filmmaker. Tarantino is known for his unrelenting violence and rapid-fire dialogue exchanges, but early scenes in his latest movie show him taking a bit of a breath. It's a nice touch, but Tarantino cannot help giving into his worst indulgences as a director; the movie ultimately succumbs to those, and it erases all hints of goodwill that may have been built up earlier in the film.


Tarantino's objectives in "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" are clear: celebrate the city of Los Angeles and an era of filmmaking gone by. The movie - like any of his work, good or otherwise - drips in style and detail, as he recreates the Golden Age of Hollywood.  On the surface, he succeeds in doing so, but the wink to old Hollywood feels like a mask draped over the movie, which boils down to something far less interesting - and galling - in its final act.

At the center of this Hollywood tale is Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio, in his first role since winning the Oscar for "The Revenant"). His star seems to be fading, after he appeared in a popular television show but never quite hit the same success in the movies. The work Dalton is offered is deemed beneath him, even when energetically pitched by agent Marvin Schwarzs (Al Pacino). Rick seems alone in the world and at a crossroads of what to do next, and can only rely on his friend, driver and former stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt).

Meanwhile, Roman Polanski and his pregnant wife Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) move next door to Rick, which opens an entire new plot thread in "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood." The movie is set in 1969, so we spend time on a ranch with the Manson family, who wreaked havoc around Los Angeles during this time, but it often feels like another movie trapped within the 160-minute runtime. Including Tate and the Manson family (Charles Manson is briefly seen, played by Damon Herriman), is the movie's undoing, though it can't be discussed without spoiling the ludicrous final act. Tarantino uses Tate and Manson in a way only he would, but he can't seem to find a way to do so effectively.

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Rick is the conduit of Tarantino's story of a changing era and DiCaprio hits the right notes of melancholy. Pitt finds the right swagger to play Cliff, who seems to be content floating through life and hanging around with Rick. The pair give bona fide movie star performances that seem to be in sync with the movie's intentions, even if Tarantino fails in the execution.

When it becomes clear that the movie is about faltering ego and needing to give Rick and Cliff a purpose, it all becomes less interesting. The film buckles under the weight of its final act and raises questions about whether anything that came before it was about a love of Hollywood or not. Tarantino has often been his own worst enemy, and when his movies don't work, it's often because he can't get out of his own way.


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About Udara Madusanka

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