Review of Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

I honestly can’t really review this movie properly because the moment it was clear Margot Robbie was playing Sharon Tate I couldn’t concentrate. I knew Tarantino’s passion for using gallons of blood in violent scenes and putting two and two together I became really anxious about what was going to happen. I actually stopped watching in the middle to continue the next day, it was the first time I ever did that. The idea I’d eventually be watching a massacre unnerved me.

Moving ahead it then turned out the way it did and now I feel annoyed I allowed myself to be distracted. Brad Pitt was really good. I never really paid much attention to him other than in Ad Astra and in this one it was enjoyable to watch him play a character he seems to be made to play. I read somewhere that character was Kurt Russell’s bodyguard in real life and it’s actually hard to imagine it not to be true than otherwise.

This is Quentin Tarantino at his standard movie making self, which is excellent in that he manages to tell the story in his own very unique understated, timely and .. cognizant for lack of a better word, way. Tarantino is a student of the filmmakers of a specific era and anyone who has watched as many films as I have are all let’s be honest. He sees the world in a lens that is familiar and painstakingly works his way towards his goal in such a way as to say to the moviegoer hey, I know what I’m doing here, sit back and watch me do it. And he does. Each and every time.

I was not surprised he mentioned Mike de Leon and Lino Brocka in an interview once because that’s very much how I feel when I watch his movies. The color hues, the long shots, the main character’s face upon realization that he knew who the bad guys were as Pitt did, these are old school almost as to be considered outdated, but not to Tarantino and not to me.

There was a scene when Leo’s character was being directed by a spaghetti western director who after Googling turned out to be a guy named Sam Wanamaker. After Leo’s Rick Dalton gave the performance of his life you could hear Sam’s elation in the background. You would expect him to leap off his feet to congratulate Dalton but instead Dalton has a 2-3 second scene with a little girl his co star where he apologized for pushing her so hard. After her reply she was ok the camera goes wide to reveal Sam sitting there smiling then finally getting up to heap praise and shake his hand.

You would think this is bad directing in that Sam should have got up immediately and Dalton would not have had a chance to speak to the girl but I believe this is a nod to how they did it back then. The directors took time for the actors to get into their dialogues. It was important Dalton apologize to the girl and it was important the girl indicate she was ok and in fact appear that she enjoyed being in such a good scene with him. This sets forth prominently the message that Dalton did actually deliver a good performance. Otherwise we would have had to rely on the director’s praising words and that may not come through with the audience.

The scenes of Margot Robbie appreciating the laughter and applause of the crowd when she was watching her movie by herself were also valuable as it establishes her joy at being part of something big and doing something she liked. At that point I unfortunately had to discontinue watching till the next day as I was just wracked with anxiety at what I knew was going to happen.

Overall the experience of watching a Tarantino film is inherent value in and of itself almost to the point that it is regardless of what the story is or who the actors are. I just want to see how he interprets a scene. Co actors getting to know each other. The protagonist losing his self confidence. The bad guys realizing they knew who Dalton was making them want to share nostalgic memories just before going on a killing spree. I can imagine the writing jumping out of my TV. These are what make a movie. The actors are there to perform a role just like anyone else in the cast.

I hope Tarantino does more but his style is so uniquely his own it probably will and should end with him calling the shots and if he says no more then so be it.

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