Nerdlocker Movie Review: Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood


“Violence is one of the most fun things to watch.” – Quentin Tarantino

Some people can say they grew up in the heyday of Stanley Kubrick or Akira Kurosawa or Alfred Hitchcock. I’m lucky enough to be able to say I grew up in the heyday of Quentin Tarantino. I was born in 1989 and in the year 1992 he began his theatrical reign as one of the most original and innovative filmmakers in the history of cinema. Now, nine films later and his status in the film community is still one of absolute reverence. With each new project he approaches it as if that is the most important thing he will ever do.

The kind love and admiration he has for cinema as a whole permeates throughout each and every one of his films. He is a master of his craft and rather than shun what the world thinks he embraces everyone’s desire, along with his own, to elevate the very craft that film is. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is a love letter to cinema in the age of hippies, Vietnam controversy, and the beginning of a transition to what cinema has now become in the modern era. Taking place in 1969, it was the end of the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Sometimes transition can leave behind those unwilling to welcome such change. Rick Dalton is a man once highly sought after finding himself left in the dust as seemingly all of Hollywood passes him by. Right by his side but very much less stressed about their predicament, is Dalton’s stunt double and right hand man, Cliff Booth. Together they navigate the backlots of Hollywood trying to stay relevant in a business that only wants new and profitable. Still feeling like he has a lot to offer, Dalton continues to take the lesser roles in hopes of scoring the sizeable roles he once did in his younger days as a leading man. The less Dalton works the less Booth works so their friendship is mutually beneficial for all involved the more Dalton works. But the phone just isn’t ringing like it used to and Dalton is beginning to lose his mind as a result. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is about the old watching the new take its place in a sort of natural order of things. Only this particular batch of old isn’t going out quietly.

You can say, accurately so, that Tarantino’s ninth effort meanders for quite a bit of its hefty two hour and forty minute runtime but that’s kind of the point. This is a film about two men in a place of limbo, not knowing where to go or what to do in a world once familiar to them now trying to forget them despite their best efforts. As they seek the spotlight they once held they still have to find the humor in everyday life and that’s basically where we as the audience enter the story.

Think of it as Forrest Gump being placed in the middle of historical moments but it’s all Tarantino-fied with amazing dialogue and gratuitous violence. And another big difference is this particular director isn’t afraid to completely alter real history for his own version, see Inglourious Basterds for reference.

What can I say about this film that you don’t already know? The dialogue is pristine and wicked smart as usual with any Tarantino story. The acting is nothing less than top notch, award worthy from the leading actors to the uncredited actors with a single speaking line. Every role feels as if the actor chosen will become synonymous with that character like DiCaprio to Dalton and Pitt to Booth. Most importantly you should know that no matter what else you’ve seen this year or will later on, his film will stand out among the rest. His films are always an experience not to be passed on.

However divisive the film is now upon initial release will likely hold no bearing on the longevity and impact it will have on pop culture as a whole. It will further speak in defense of Tarantino rightfully being spoken in the same breath as the Kubricks, the Scorseses, the Hitchcocks, the Coppolas, the Kurosawas and the like. He exudes originality by paying homage, by paying stringent attention to those that came before him and taking what they did and twisting it to his sensibilities. He is an auteur at the top of his game still finding himself in awe of the craft he seems to be so in command of and yet still finding ways to better himself as a creator. He seems to take joy in being both a teacher and student of cinema learning and teaching simultaneously. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is proof of all of it and more. This is yet another Tarantino stamp on the history of motion pictures and he is as every bit eager as he was when Reservoir Dogs opened to the unsuspecting public in 1992.

His ninth isn’t his best by any means but it still speaks to everything he is capable of. The film is aimless in structure but never pointless in meaning. It presents a docile facade and hidden behind it a vicious hound ready to pounce. Acting, perfect. Dialogue, crisp and hilarious. Cinematography, gorgeous and distinctly Tarantino. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, another classic from the maestro of pulpy, self-aggrandizing storytelling.

Rated R For: language throughout, some strong graphic violence, drug use, and sexual references
Runtime: 161 minutes
After Credits Scene: Mid-Credits
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Al Pacino, Timothy Olyphant
Directed By: Quentin Tarantino

Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 4/ Acting: 5/ Directing: 5/ Visuals: 5
OVERALL: 5 Nerdskulls

Buy to Own: Yes

Check out the trailer below:

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Chase Gifford

"Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world"-Jean-Luc Godard