It seems like every time Quentin Tarantino puts out a new movie it’s an almost historic event. He has said he’s only making 10 films and Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood is his 9th. Consider it has taken him 27 years to get here, his films are few and far between. It makes this latest film a special occasion, especially with the cast. With Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio as his leading characters, Margot Robbie, and plenty of familiar faces from Tarantino’s previous films it’s particularly interesting. Not to mention Tarantino has always infused his films with a love of cinema and this film revolving around a stunt man and actor–and the Manson family fiasco–one can imagine this may be his magnum opus. As it stands the film feels Tarantino in style but also doesn’t. It’s well worth a look though especially on the new Blu-ray release.
This release includes plenty of extras including five behind the scenes featurettes and 20 or so minutes of deleted scenes. These scenes include two commercials (one including James Marsden) and what appears to be an extended improv scene between DiCaprio and Nicholas Hammond on the set of a Western pilot. There are other scenes, but it’s obvious why these were excised from the film. The featurette “Quentin Tarantino’s Love Letter to Hollywood” is an interesting look at the inspirations around the film though the interviews can sometimes feel scripted.
The film itself is good although not quite what you might expect from Tarantino. The dialogue can be sharp, but for the most part, it feels a bit less pointed and purposeful. In large part, this movie is more about long pauses and a slower pace. It’s about drawing you in utilizing your expectations and defying them. It does come with a rather rousing ending that I loved–there is plenty of ultra-violence–and the bond between DiCaprio’s and Pitt’s characters feels quite genuine. It also seems quite adept at capturing the sounds and visuals of the times. The hippies were all over and some detested them while Hollywood attempted to navigate a changing time. I’m not sure its point is ever made about what it all means, but it feels lived in and real.
There’s also a deep love of the period be it TV or movies. There’s some excellent work done to integrate old films and TV shows with the actors. Seeing DiCaprio in The Great Escape is seamless. Hearing the radio and music while characters drive about sounds just as it might at the time. It’s obvious capturing the look of the streets was tricky–a lot of scenes involve characters driving on nondescript roads–but the sonic story is strong.
This is a good film and one that I’m sure many liked at first, but I can’t shake the fact that this doesn’t quite feel like a Tarantino film. The pacing, and thus the editing, feels off. Characters aren’t making poignant and interesting speeches, but simply talking and hanging out. The ending is excellent and similar to how Inglourious Bastards ends in all its chaotic glory, but it takes some patience to get there.
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