'Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood' Review: Occasionally Meandering but Always Intriguing
We’re not going to lie: Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film, ‘Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood’ is not an easy film to review. There are plenty of good, bad, and indifferent parts of the movie to touch on, all further complicated by the fact that the bar for any Tarantino picture is already incredibly high—perhaps unfairly so.
What do we mean by that last part? Well, overall the film has been received quite positively by film critics, though Tarantino acolytes seem to be a little more tepid about it. But what if this film weren’t written and directed by Tarantino, and instead was made by a lesser-known entity? Would it be considered a masterful piece of filmmaking, a breakout success largely unparalleled by anything else released so far this year? There’s no actual answer to this. We simply wonder …
Meanwhile, let’s start with the bad stuff. The middle of the film is somewhat meandering, meaning this is the third film in a row that Tarantino could’ve trimmed some fat to make the movie that much more invigorating. And what do his three most recent movies all have in common? The absence of Tarantino’s long-time editor, Sally Menke, who tragically died at the age of 56 while hiking in Beachwood Canyon during a heat wave.
Furthermore, a key component of Tarantino’s movies is the way he incorporates music into the film, choosing the perfect song to complement what is seen on the screen. Our biggest gripe with ‘Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood’ is that the songs were often abruptly cut short, never being allowed to fully play out and truly meld with the action unfolding on screen.
On the positive side, the film is about 90% less violent than a typical Tarantino flick, meaning it’ll be a lot more accessible to moviegoers who previously avoided the filmmaker due to his penchant for frequently utilizing gory deaths. This makes the film closer to ‘Jackie Brown’ in both substance and style than most of his other works.
Lastly, ‘Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood’ proves once and for all that Leonardo DiCaprio is among the finest and most talented actors of his generation. He is downright captivating in every single scene. And considering he is an actor playing an actor—one of the hardest roles there is to pull off in Hollywood—it makes his performance that much more extraordinary.