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MOVIE REVIEW: FTN reviews Once Upon a Time In… Hollywood

July 30th, 2019 by Andrew McCarroll Comments

Once Upon a Time In… Hollywood (15)
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino 
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Margot Robbie 
Running time: 161 Mins

If the man himself is to be believed, then this is to be the penultimate film in Tarantino’s illustrious career. The plot sounds like a roll-call of all his greatest hits and influences: old-school Hollywood, obscure TV shows, cracking music, Spaghetti-Westerns and (with the Manson family in tow) the promise of his now signature ultra-violence.

Tarantino has implored critics not to give away too much of the plot. This feels like a needless warning as there isn’t much of a plot to be given away.

It’s his most languid movie since Jackie Brown, but without the overarching “big score” plot-line to jolt the film into action. It takes the form of a leisurely stroll through a beautiful 1960s Hollywood with two of the best guides you could ask for in Messrs DiCaprio and Pitt; with vintage tinsel-town A-list star power and inhuman charisma, the duo drenches the screen with effortless cool and electric chemistry.

And they are assisted by one of the truly great directors. His foot fetish aside, Tarantino is an artist with a camera – “Zidane with a steady-cam” – Stunning (and practical) craning shots of the simplest things such as Pitt fixing a TV antenna, are every bit as visually stunning as a Bruce Lee fight scene or saloon shootout.

Dialogue has always been a staple of his work but here he tones down the need for cool one-liners or pop-culture monologues… he is confident in his characters’ ability to just, well, talk.

It’s here where Once Upon a Time in Hollywood really shines. In a summer of disappointing and tired bombastic action, anchored by literally the biggest movie of all time, Tarantino mesmerises, capturing your attention with words in lieu of destruction and devastation – a cracking scene with DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton discussing method acting with an 8-year-old is far more engaging than a thousand blue lights blowing up New York.

It is also undoubtedly his slowest movie; in fact, anyone who might enjoy those aspects of the director from which Guy Richie has made a living, might leave the cinema disappointed.

The much-discussed Manson Family thread truthfully adds nothing to proceedings and is awkwardly shoehorned-in just to wrap things up in a divisive finale; it feels close to a retread of one of his previous movies and isn’t sufficient payoff for the preceding two and a half hours.

Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is given little to do aside from dance like an extra from Austin Powers; her role is to show off the angelic innocence of a Hollywood soon to be shattered by the Manson killings, but the change to that story arc renders her ineffective for the most part.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a stunning, immersive journey through a romanticised era of bygone Hollywood.

Anchored by two wonderful performances by DiCaprio and Pitt, its almost three-hour run-time sails by but the star is undoubtedly its director.

While his recent output hasn’t measured up to his earlier work, he remains a true original in an ocean of remakes and sequels. There are countless ‘spinning the ball on his finger’ moments which serve to remind us we’re watching a master at work and, if he really does only have one more round left in the chamber, it will be a shame to see him ride off into the sunset.

Especially having now proven he still has plenty of fight left in him.

4 out of  5 Nerds

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Andrew McCarroll never quite built on the dizzying career heights that he hit at 6 years old, when as a member of the “Ghostbusters” he would charge his neighbours to remove any unwanted spectres. Now retired from slaying spooks, he spends his time obsessing over superheroes (especially Batman) and devouring shows like Dexter, Game of Thrones and Archer in a manner that would make Galactus proud. You can follow his rants on twitter @andymc1983