I can’t remember the last time a film made me so conflicted about whether I liked it or not. Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Once Upon A Time In Hollywood’ is definitely a head-scratcher for me. I will acknowledge that it is well-made, and has that Tarantino stamp. I have never been a fan of his films – they are fine, for sure, but all of them are just too “bro” for my taste. There’s a certain tenderness in OUATIH that makes me like it a little more than the others.
The film is a love letter to a certain time; Los Angeles in the late 60s. The production values are top notch – you really do feel like you are transported to that specific era – Brad Pitt’s character Cliff Booth listens to the radio and you can even hear the commercials of the time, and of course I was fascinated by the perfume ones. I think I liked that a little more now that I love in Los Angeles – it was interesting for me to physically see how certain streets and monuments looked then – I say it’s a shoo-in for a Production Design nomination at the very least.
But the screenplay was just not enough for me to really get into – an episodic hodge podge of points in Rick Dalton’s life. Rick is an aging actor, played by Leonardo di Caprio, who has maybe seen better days – he has now been relegated to playing bad guys on television shows, even as he is offered leads in Spaghetti Westerns. He has a sidekick of sorts, Cliff Booth, who serves as a paid friend/driver. We see them go from gig to gig, as they live their showbiz lives. And they live next door to Sharon Tate, played by Margot Robbie, a rising actress who starred in ‘Valley Of The Dolls.’ And just when you think you know where the story is going with those details, Tarantino gives you a surprise ending.
I don’t know how I felt about that. On one hand, I don’t know if I want another movie about the Manson murders (Didn’t I just see one, ‘Charlie Says?’) yet I also got where QT was going here, as this is a fairy tale of Los Angeles in that specific time. All in all, this movie is ultimately not really for me, even if I enjoyed some specific parts of it. I gotta give it credit for making me think, and making me feel differently.