Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Written by Quentin Tarantino
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
2019 - Columbia Pictures
Cast: Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio. Margot Robbie. Al Pacino.
Eclectic Rating: stars
"Holy crap, two hours and forty-one minutes!" I blurted before pressing the play button.
My wife, "I hope the movie is good enough that we last that long..."
My retort, "We're talkin' Quentin Tarantino, of course it's gonna be good!"
Look, I've watched my share of normal length flicks that put me to sleep in under half an hour, but this is the first time I sat through a nearly three-hour movie that felt like only eighty-five minutes, and had my eyes open the whole time.
About 30 minutes in my wife made another comment, "Something had better happen here or I'm going to lose interest." I didn't really agree, but early on the film does seem to move a bit slow. I guess I was more optimistic than she. It's all about perception really, because a seemingly short time later she made another comment about the pace and when I paused the movie to check elapsed time we found we had been watching for over two hours. Something must have been keeping our interest.
The movie pulls you along. It's strangely busy but at the same time seems focused, like there is entirely too much going on but it doesn't matter. You still follow it. Tarantino draws a line right through it all so you don't miss a thing.
Much of the first half of the film, while providing great character building and backstory, also serves as a massive misdirection peppered with scenes that allow us to piece together what we think may be to come, but when we reach the end of the film we find out how off the mark we were. At least I was. I didn't see it coming.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is deliberately off-kilter, and deliberately funny. It's just what Quentin Tarantino fans would expect; outrageous, over-the-top, hilarious, and not without copious graphic violence where required.
Tarantino's films sometimes feel like cinematic versions of a Mort Drucker drawn Mad Magazine bit. As we watched the film unfold the characters somehow became caricatures of themselves, and there were moments in a scene where we found ourselves cracking up about some goofy hair piece and the expression on Brad Pitt's face, or the way DiCaprio delivered a line like the flame thrower training shot. Just great acting in general and some overacting at times, which is great. Another example is the way the side of the car instantly and unexpectedly buckles in when Bruce Lee plows into it. That moment somehow sums up the concise and direct nature of this film. Wham! It's like a living comic book.
There are many moments like that in the film, and I guess that's what does it; while you're being told the story there are these little asides that add interest and entertainment while not detracting from the main plot, which is kind of rambling in itself, but that doesn't seem to matter. The genius of it is that It all works.
According to the goofs section in the Once Upon a Time in Hollywood entry at IMDB there are a bunch of inconsistencies, oversights, and continuity errors. I can almost guarantee you that Tarantino knew about every goof. If they weren't intentional they were inconsequential. QT has been having fun with continuity gaffes for years, his films are rife with them. He does this kind of thing for fun to keep audiences, and I guess mostly himself, entertained.
Comedy and action aside, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is really a post-tragic symbolic retribution film. There is a real element of revenge here, and it's strangely rewarding. The ultimate purpose becomes apparent as the final scenes unfold, and it's surreal to watch, but it works.
Tarantino twists history and gives the bad guys the serious American cinematic ass-kicking they deserved, and has a little fun at the same time. I knew I was in for a fun ride, and was not disappointed. Highly recommended.
Find Once Upon a Time in Hollywood at Amazon.com (paid link)More about Once Upon a Time in Hollywood at IMDb.com
Last Update: 21 Feb, 2020