Quentin Tarantino delivered a nostalgic and honest love letter to the film industry in his ninth film Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood. Set in the late 60s and early 70s the story follows actor Rick Dalton, played by Leonardo DiCaprio and his stunt double Cliff Booth, played by Brad Pitt, as they come to terms with the gradual decline of their careers. Tarantino does not deviate from his signature erratic storylines, fluid scenes of violence or his obvious foot shots, but this film adds a more personal touch that stands out compared to his previous films. Alamo Drafthouse had 35mm showings of this film which only added to the vibe of this film and was incredible to see.
Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance as Rick Dalton was his most moving Tarantino performance yet. A washed-up alcoholic trying to hold fast to his best years hit close to home. Although his breakdowns were crafted in a comedic way I couldn’t help but see myself through him. Anyone who considers themselves artists in any way; actors, writers, artists, dancers, etc. can relate to getting older and feeling out of touch with the way we once felt about our passions. Life gets more difficult and we lose some of the magic along the way, I remember the days when I could sit in my room and write for hours, the confidence I possessed, the joy I got from writing. As I’ve gotten older sometimes writing feels more forced, I’ve lost some of the love for the craft along the way and it’s frustrating and that’s exactly what I saw in Rick Dalton. He’s just looking for his worth in the big blockbuster films, trying to find a role that makes him feel worthy of the Hollywood life. It’s our passions that give us our purpose but its hard to get to the point where we’re proud enough of our accomplishments to be content with what we’ve given the world.
Brad Pitt’s character Cliff Booth was the comedic relief and best friend that everyone needs. Constantly supportive even though he was the shifty stunt double that no one wanted to be around, Cliff and Rick’s relationship was heartwarming, I could only hope to have a friendship like theirs at that age, minus the mess with the hippies. Margot Robbie had a smaller role than I thought she would but her performance was stellar nonetheless, she played Sharon Tate with a lot of passion, it was touching to see. The hardest part of the film was seeing Luke Perry, I had to hold back tears once I remembered this was his last film to appear in. As iconic as he is this was a fitting last performance, he will forever be idol in the industry and is already greatly missed. May he be remembered for bringing such talent and heart to the film industry.
It isn’t a classic Tarantino film without a poetic display of violence which Tarantino gave to us in the form of the Manson murders. I normally think Tarantino can get carried away with his action scenes and have a lot of unnecessary gruesome takes but the Manson scene was perfect. It was a great blend of comedy, suspense and violence. One of my favorite things about this film was the style of the film, because it was an introspective look into Hollywood, it was like watching a film inside of a film. With excellent narration, scene cuts, and brilliantly crafted camera manipulation the audience got an inside look at the production side of the industry.
It’s under wide debate whether or not this will be Quentin Tarantino’s last film but it is arguably his best film, the depth of the message alone speaks volumes. Is this film an open diary to how Tarantino feels as a director, is it a heavy message to how a lot of stars feel after years under the spotlight? No matter the takeaway or what the critics are saying this film already hit $5.8 million on its Thursday premier, the highest of Tarantino’s career. I plan on seeing this film again in theaters and if this is the last directed film we get from Tarantino it is a poetic end of a great saga.