ONCE UPON A TIME IN … HOLLYWOOD (2019)
Dir: Quentin Tarantino
Reviewed Jul 26, 2019
NO SPOILERS AHEAD
At the beginning of Quentin Tarantino’s 2009 film INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS [sic], Standartenführer Hans Landa, in full military regalia, knocks on the door of a small, wooden home in the French countryside. The homeowner is hiding Jews from capture by the SS, and both characters know it. The terse discussion between the characters played on for several minutes with Landa, full of his own ambition and egotism, delivering his side of the parlay slightly overacted, attempting to intimidate the dairy farmer and cajole a confession or find a flaw in the homeowner’s narrative. Landa played with the homeowner, and the camera, that there’s more behind the narrative. The tension builds to a tight wind before being released in a scene which is only slightly Tarantino-esque, making you want for more, and setting the pace for the rest of the film. The scene helped secure actor Christoph Waltz the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and a Golden Globe, the Best Actor statuette at Cannes, and more.
The delicate interplay between characters, usually with high-strung tension leveled with humor, and interspersed with both expected and unexpected violence, is a hallmark of Quentin Tarantino’s filmography, both as director and writer. He spent 2 movies getting to the well-played scene where Uma Thurman actually does KILL BILL. But throughout, along with his attention to detail and hallmark non-linear style, have made for expectations which made his audience – me included – excited for his latest effort, ONCE UPON A TIME IN … HOLLYWOOD [again, sic].
This time, drop the über-violence, non-linear timeline, and character interplays wound so tight, and we have this film. OUAT…IH has the detail, certainly, along with (arguably) far too many long, drawn out moments, great dialogue and maybe not much else. Oh, except an alternative take on a tragedy that played out in the Hollywood Hills in the summer of 1969. It is an alternative I think we all wish were reality.
The first half hour contains just ridiculously long dialogues without the panache, unrequited tautness or even the brilliance we’ve come to expect. As more characters arrive on the scene and become developed, we pick up speed a bit, but even I, who loves long movies so much he had a long movie database attached to his vampire movie Website (maybe I’ll put them up again one day). Yet even I will say this one needs to be gutted; about 30 minutes of useless micro-detail and extended dialogue scenes which don’t contribute to the film need to go, along with several too-long useless shots, IMHO.
There are great performances here. The two main leads, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, have great, believable chemistry together. But the outstanding performance here is from Julia Butters, who at 10 years of age was called by Esquire the films’ “Breakout Star”1. Yet at the end we are left with the feeling of having spent 161 minutes seeing crafted dialogue, well-shot SOCAL scenery and a great soundtrack with little other payoff. The end, which is only partially violent compared to other QT entries, is satisfying, and the film’s only release. Yet after it, asking about the entire film’s drawn out timing, I asked myself “That’s it?”
I would say, this flick is better than THE HATEFUL EIGHT, but far from the brilliance of INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, PULP FICTION, RESERVOIR DOGS or even TRUE ROMANCE (which Tarantino wrote but was directed by Tony Scott, RIP). Since we are all Tarantino fans (aren’t we?) do see the movie. But be sure your expectations are set down a notch.
- https://www.esquire.com/entertainment/movies/a28510307/julia-butters-once-upon-a-time-in-hollywood-child-actress-interview-leonardo-dicaprio-scene/ ↵