Quentin Tarantino is an interesting director. For a director that borrows a lot from and pays tribute to countless films, he has his own unmistakable style that one can pick up on within just a few lines of dialogue or a single shot. It's his unrestrained and unapologetic boldness in his film-making that has drawn me back to his films time and time again. He makes the mundane exciting (or at least interesting) in a way only Tarantino can do. His ninth film Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood continues this trend but in a way quite unlike his previous films.
Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood follows actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) as they try to sustain fame and success in late-1960s Hollywood. Dalton feels like his best years are behind him, and relies heavily on Booth for moral support. DiCaprio and Pitt, unsurprisingly, stand out in their roles. They have a great chemistry that even comes off as quite charming. Dalton is a very self-absorbed character, yet DiCaprio plays the role with such charisma and enthusiasm that he perfectly contrasts Pitt's more reserved, suave performance as Booth. In terms of other performances in the film, though, nothing really stands out as much. There aren't any bad performances but likewise none really come off as memorable as DiCaprio's and Pitt's. Margot Robbie felt particularly underutilised as iconic symbol, of 1960's Hollywood Sharon Tate. She fits the role very well but in terms of roles that showcase her diverse acting talent well, this one isn't high on the list. Then again, the film uses Tate to represent the purified innocence of the rising stars of the 1960s, so Robbie pulls that off very well.
Stylistically, this is one of Tarantino's best films. The film is a bonafide love letter to the films and lifestyles of the 1960s, and Tarantino has no shame in expressing his love for both. Shots linger on bright neon signs whilst musical hits from the decade blare out of car radios. If you grew up during the 1960s, this film is probably going to feel quite nostalgic, whilst coming off as endearing and charming for the rest of us.Tarantino makes sure to convey 1960s Hollywood as a place of pure optimism and cheerfulness, with, in typical Tarantino fashion, a hint of something darker going on behind-the-scenes. In terms of plot, however, I feel this to be one of Tarantino's weakest. Unlike previous films by him which have a solid driving force behind the plot, this film takes a much more relaxed approach in its storytelling, with events happening around the characters rather than said characters being the aforementioned driving force. I hate defining a film as "slow" because this type of film isn't meant to be fast-paced, but I do feel some scenes could have been left on the cutting-room floor for a tighter cinematic experience. It's a shame because Tarantino can usually make scenes that contain nothing but minutes-upon-minutes of dialogue interesting thanks to clever dialogue. This film does contain good dialogue, but without that solid driving force and hook to keep the audience fully invested, one can't help but feel unfulfilled when the film reaches its climax (again, one of Tarantino's weakest by far).
Overall, Tarantino's ninth flick is a smart, stylish one that revels in the glory of 1960s Hollywood. It is definitely his most relaxed and self-absorbed film, taking its time to showcase every little detail that made 1960s Hollywood the Golden Age that it is. Therefore, despite it being one of his weaker flicks, I can forgive its shortcomings and see it as it is: a tribute to an era of Hollywood film-making he cares for very deeply. And that care is clearly and carefully conveyed in Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood.