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Once Upon A Time In Hollywood  rating

Atmospheric love letter to Hollywood of Yore

Tarantino’s latest movie is at once a better and more refined movie, and at the same time just a little more disappointing movie than its predecessors. If you’re looking for the director’s trademarks, you’ll find some that you may have tired of more present than ever (close up of feet for his well known foot-fetish, I’m thinking of you..) and yet some that you have come to love and expect, less present than usual. For the latter, I’m thinking of his razor sharp scripts with carefully choregraphed anarchy and beautifully designed diversions. With the exception of a memorable scene where Brad Bitt’s stuntman has a run in with Bruce lee, there are few standout moments to match scenes like ‘Quarter pounder with cheese’ scene in Pulp Fiction, the German cellar bar scene in Inglorious Basterds or Mr Blue’s dissection of ‘Like a Virgin’ in Reservoir Dogs. This just isn’t that kind of a movie – it’s more of a measured well constructed mood piece, ultimately becoming a wish fulfilment vehicle to salute a Hollywood long since gone. In taking a well known moment of Hollywood history (The Manson murders) to tell his own tale, Tarantino has posited this as a turning point in Hollywood history and puts on rose coloured glasses to take us back to a pre-tarnished era.

Set around the end of the 60’s the film focusses on DiCaprios fading movie star who is finding new life on television, and his stunt double (Brad Pitt). More than colleagues, they are buddies, and though Dicaprio is struggling to figure out how to keep him employed, he continues to do so because he needs the company, especially at this time of insecurity brought on by the transition from cinema to television. Meanwhile, DiCaprio’s next door neighbour Sharon Tate, played by Margot Robbie, is on a wave of success. Criticisms were made that she had few lines, but I couldn’t help thinking that watching her reactions in a cinema as her own movie plays was a mini masterclass and spoke more than any verbal explanation would have done. It’s all beautifully observed, well acted, and lushly shot with a sort of permanent sunset golden hue with saturated colours that shouts out 60’s. It comes across as one of the most technically well accomplished of Tarantino’s movies. It still manages to subvert expectations in the end, in a very Quentin way, with the end tone as the film concludes being one more of warm nostalgia for something that maybe never actually was. It’s QT pushing the characters more than the dialogue, the mood over the sensation. I really enjoyed the tone as I was watching, barely noticing the time go by – was disappointed at the end that my own expectations were not met, and subsequently the film grew on me again as it mulled around in my mind over the next week or two. That has to make it a significant success and achievement… I don’t think it will ever be one of my favourite QT movies, but I can’t help thinking I need to go back and watch it again, just to be sure…

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