Once Upon A Time in Hollywood

For almost two hours into the movie Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, I was kind of having this feeling that this movie is so different from the usual Quentin Tarantino movies. Two hours and I am yet to see a drop of blood. Will this be that one QT movie Anupama Chopra will love completely because it’s devoid of bloodshed? Luckily for the lovers of the maestro of violence, Once Upon A Time in Hollywood has everything one wishes to see in a Quentin Tarantino movie. From black humor filled hilarious conversations to an unimaginable level of violence, this movie delivers everything it promised.

Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth are our main protagonists. Rick is an actor in Hollywood and Cliff is his stunt double. In Hollywood, they were living next to Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate. Rick was in a struggling phase in his acting career and Cliff was also in a similar phase as he lived a life more like a driver of Rick rather than his stunt double. It’s a bit difficult to give a summary of this movie. But the story is ultimately about how Dalton gets a major break at the end of a series of events that happens over one night.

I have criticized a lot of films for stretching wafer-thin concepts far too much. I used to feel that stretching such thin ideas into a big film is not the right way of approaching movies. I walked out of Once Upon A Time in Hollywood realizing that thin ideas can also be gripping if you can layer it smoothly and engagingly. OUATIH is not a phenomenal concept. But it is a phenomenal example of how writing scenes with exceptional detailing can make it all look compelling. In some ways, this movie is a black comedy about how a man who is more than a brother and less than a wife unknowingly helps his friend to get a much-needed break in his profession. What was exciting about this movie was how Tarantino made it his own kind of film by creating backstories and dilemmas to each of his characters. The tiring length of the film caused a bit of discomfort while watching the film, but at the end when you look back at all the events, you will realize how crucial all those tracks were in getting into the zone of the movie.

Leonardo DiCaprio was fabulous in being Rick Dalton. He is playing an insecure and vulnerable person and even though we are laughing at him for his fragility, the performance was top notch. The way he showcases the process of acting in this movie was also incredible. Brad Pitt, on the other hand, is the coolest guy. His swagger in playing Cliff Booth is impeccable. Everyone inside the theatre couldn’t resist their laughter when a doped Booth asks “are you real?” to a house invader. Margot Robbie within her limited screen time portrays the excitement of a new actress in a genuine way. The cast of the movie has many major names including Al Pacino, Kurt Russell, Dakota Fanning, and many others, but the one who will surely stay with everyone after the movie is the 12-year-old Julia Butters who was really good in her combination scenes with DiCaprio.

The signature stuff one expects to see in a Quentin Tarantino film is definitely there in Once Upon A Time in Hollywood. The lengthy conversations and scene building technique he applies in his writing is really unique. What he has done here as a writer is that he has taken a simple idea and divided it into three stories about three people. But the linking between these 3 parallel stories is done in a very smooth manner that it won’t feel like three tracks playing at once. The only thing I would consider as a minor negative is the isolation of the Sharon Tate character. Yes, she is in a way placed there to give that landing to the movie and her individual track has nicely captured the retro texture of Hollywood. But somewhere I felt even if they chopped all her scenes from the film, there won’t be much of a void. The recreation of the ’60s was brilliant. The climax fight was signature QT stuff and nobody will be able to resist themselves from laughing. The cuts are quirky and exciting. The music definitely eyes to create a retro vibe.

A thin concept getting a grand visual narrative simply because of the way the screenplay writing managed to add layers; that’s Once Upon A Time in Hollywood for me in a nutshell. Just like Pulp fiction, this movie also amazed me by showing how detailed writing can elevate a simple idea.  

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Final Thoughts

A thin concept getting a grand visual narrative simply because of the way the screenplay writing managed to add layers; that’s Once Upon A Time in Hollywood for me in a nutshell.


Green: Recommended Content

Orange: The In-Between Ones

Red: Not Recommended


By Aswin Bharadwaj

Founder and editor of Lensmen Reviews.