Geek Culture

Geek Review: Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

You know how there’s always this kid in class who gets away with everything and anything? The brat who isn’t punctual, hands in his assignments late, and is still the teacher’s pet. But for some strange reason, he has got all the charisma in the world.

Quentin Tarantino is just like that kid. The American filmmaker is known for his indulgent movies which star showbiz’s prettiest people, features extended dialogue sequences which does little to extend the storyline, and are unnecessarily violent. But people still love his stylistic works, and you would probably adore his latest project which runs for 161 minutes.

Leonardo DiCaprio is the male lead of the film, a has-been TV star who is beginning to realise that he is not destined for movie stardom. His best friend and drinking pal is his long-time stunt double played by Brad Pitt, who is ageing very well for a 55-year-old. The two men make their way through the ups and downs of Hollywood, crossing paths with real-life character like director Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha), his movie star wife Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), as well as actors like Bruce Lee (Mike Moh), Steve McQueen (Damian Lewis), James Stacy (Timothy Olyphant) and Wayne Maunder (Luke Perry).

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If you grew up watching Hollywood movies in the 1960s (as Tanratino likely did while working in a video store), the above-mentioned names wouldn’t be unfamiliar. For the rest of us, the comedy-drama film is another indulgent Tarantino project where our eyes feast on attractive people, lingering shots of walking feet, cigarette smoke and cars travelling on the highway. We aren’t complaining though, because the Palme d’Or-winning director has got what it takes to deliver an engaging tale that crosses multiple storylines that takes up almost three hours of your life.

Seeing how Tarantino weaves in plots about TV cowboys, rising starlets and how realistic showbiz can get even before the advent of computer effects, it is evident that Tarantino loves movies. This is his love letter to the golden age of Hollywood and there is a lot of effort put into creating that era’s look and feel, and like his previous films, the soundtrack featuring music from the past is a blast. You will tap your feet to the infectious melodies of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson”, Deep Purple’s “Hush”, Los Bravos’ “Bring a Little Lovin” and José Feliciano’s “California Dreamin”.

The casting is perfect. DiCaprio deserves another Oscar for his powerhouse acting, while Pitt may have delivered his most underrated performance yet. The two men have aged like fine wine, and there is an effortless chemistry between them. Gone are the fresh-faced idols from Titanic (1997) and Thelma & Louise (1991). What we have instead are two actors who have proved their worth in the last 30 years. The on-screen friendship between the two leads will make you want to get your buddy out for beer and pizza.

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Taking a break from feisty female roles like Harley Quinn and Tonya Harding, Robbie takes on a softer character whose wide-eyed wonder shows how celebrities took their jobs seriously back then. Other familiar faces in the film include Dakota Fanning as a hippie, Al Pacino as a Hollywood agent and Kurt Russell as a stunt coordinator.

The most interesting about this film is how it includes the infamous story of the invasion of the Manson Family. For the uninitiated, this is a real-life tragedy in August 1969 where a group of hippies, led by Charles Manson, murdered seven people (including Tate, who was eight months pregnant at the time). 

Like in Inglourious Basterds, Tarantino takes the liberty to change the story for dramatic effect, and this is also the perfect opportunity to showcase his signature stylised violence. Watching the last moments of the film is like seeing a rich and spoilt brat tearing up dollar notes because he can.

This is Tarantino’s ninth film (he will reportedly retire after making his tenth movie), and it is his most conventional production yet. We are guessing it is because this is the filmmaker’s first major studio release (it is also the first title made without the help of a certain Harvey Weinstein), and the risk aversion is comparably lower.

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Amidst the funny scenes in the movie, there is also a sense of bittersweet melancholy. Ageing TV stars, a moving bromance and above all, a cruelly practical industry that has evolved over the decades – these are the takeaways of an otherwise indulgent tribute to Hollywood’s golden age. Tarantino expectedly recreates old-school TV shows and cheesy commercials with very entertaining results. Stay after the credits to see DiCaprio wax lyrical in an amusing cigarette advertisement.  

The film is a mood piece more than anything else, and because the man behind this passion project is Quentin Tarantino, and he is getting away with it.

GEEK REVIEW SCORE

Summary

The stars are eye candy, the violence is a guilty pleasure and there are countless shots of cars travelling on the highway. Quentin Tarantino is expectedly indulgent with his ninth film, and we are loving it.

Overall
8/10
8/10
  • Story - 7/10
    7/10
  • Direction - 8.5/10
    8.5/10
  • Characterisation - 8/10
    8/10
  • Geek Satisfaction - 8.5/10
    8.5/10
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