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Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood

By Christiana and Alexandra

 

Christiana`s take:

 

2020 updated version:

 

Prepare to travel back in time with Tarantino`s most recent adventure- `Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood. ` As the God of gore himself calls it- his latest cinematic project is his “love letter to L.A.” Experience this multipart narrative and the captivating story behind it while cruising through a wild and dynamic early Hollywood. It is the era of Woodstock (happy 50th anniversary) and breakthrough film stars- such as our own Sharon Tate.

 

Tarantino`s hard work from the past 5 years truly paid off with this amazing screenplay- which is certainly deserving of an Academy Award. Everything felt so different than the filmmaker’s usual style of screenwriting, but this made it even more appealing and exciting to watch. An intriguing narrative about an actor with an explosive personality (Rick Dalton)- played by Leonardo DiCaprio- and his problematic stunt double, Cliff Booth, portrayed by Brad Pitt.

 

As Dalton’s career begins to collapse- and consequently so does Booth’s- the two of them start looking for other possible job opportunities. At the same time, a new Hollywood star rises in the industry. The plot is built around the iconic Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) as the enigmatic actress tragically finds herself in the middle of the Charles Manson murders. Even before the film’s official premiere at Cannes, the Manson `family` was confirmed to be a key factor in the story’s development.

 

A fiery portrayal of a not-so-stable stuntman- who seems to have had previous confrontations with alcohol and has developed a violent behaviour while working on set, in Rick’s absence. Pondering upon his wasted dreams and lost opportunities caused Cliff Booth’s temper to rapidly degrade. His rage and troubled past were brilliantly depicted by Brad Pitt, who did not hesitate to maintain his unique charm while playing the character. This was an important personality trait of Booth that made him a bit more relatable to the audience. Pitt`s performance was so consistent and strong, pairing him up with Leonardo DiCaprio being one of the best choices for this film. His role as Cliff Booth should definitely get him an Oscar win.

 
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As always, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt are a must-have for any big, successful film, such as this one. DiCaprio makes his glorious return to the big screen 4 years after starring in Alejandro González Iñárritu`s Award-winning film (`The Revenant`)- that got DiCaprio his long-awaited Oscar. His Rick Dalton was complex enough to depict the actor’s insanely wide emotional range. Representing one of the main reasons for `Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood`s success, DiCaprio brings his A-game to the film. In my opinion, casting an actor with such big influence as Leonardo DiCaprio is an amazing way of attracting younger audiences and introducing them to the Tarantino cinematic universe.

 

His take on Sharon Tate was so dear to our hearts- configuring her as an almost angelic presence who guarded over the acclaimed director`s Hollywood tale. The script could have had more scenes featuring Margot Robbie`s Tate, because I believed everyone would have liked to learn more about the late actress` tragic destiny.

 

The stunning editing and directing mixed beautifully together, resulting in an outstanding feature of the film. The best sequence was the one where all the club and restaurant signs lit up at the same time, as if they were pumping life into an already vibrant L.A. Another unique detail about `Once upon a Time in… Hollywood` was featuring scenes from Sharon Tate`s last films. A pleasant surprise was represented by Austin Butler`s portrayal of Tex (part of the Manson `family`) who delivered a nice performance that made him seem very professional.

 

The soundtrack was so carefully chosen, with songs like Roy Head and The Traits` “Treat Her Right”, Paul Revere & The Raiders` numerous hits and “Twelve Thirty” by The Mamas & The Papas to pump up the atmosphere (the song present in the Manson `family`s arrival sequence). The production design was absolutely brilliant considering the accuracy of all the vintage decorations used on the western film sets. The production design crew is so deserving of that Academy Award.

 

At first, I thought a different ending would have been more impactful, but it wasn’t much later until I realised how easily this alternate ending blended in the story. Lastly, my prediction would be that `Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood` is going to take home at least 4 Academy Awards- in categories like Best Production Design, Best Original Screenplay, Best Costume Design, Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Brad Pitt). 

 

Update:   After experiencing Bong Joon Ho`s insane cinematic masterpiece earlier this February and getting a "once-in-a-Hollywood-lifetime" chance to have a seat in Sam Mendes` emotional carousel, my past suspicions regarding Tarantino`s latest film got confirmed. The script and the film itself, including the directing and editing, cannot be compared to those of  "Parasite"- such a creative and disturbing social thriller that reproduces the cunning human nature-, nor to the epic war piece put together by Sam Mendes and sunk in Roger Deakins` idyllic cinematography, entitled "1917". All in all, "Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood" is nothing more than a collection of Tarantino moments and lines brought together in what was expected to be a colossal hit, but ultimately failed. Unfortunately, not as satisfying as the intangible monuments of cinema Tarantino had previously presented to the main stage ("Pulp Fiction" and "Inglourious Basterds").

 

Alexandra`s take:

 

`Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood` is Tarantino`s alternative history take on the horrific murders that took place at Sharon Tate`s house in 1969. In a mix of glamour, grit and heavy talent like DiCaprio, Pitt and Robbie, Tarantino weaves several narratives, bringing in the characters for a hell of an ending.


Apart from the household names and talent, and the beautiful cinematography and set design, the film has certain flaws. The narratives had a certain something I could not quite put my mind on, that left me dissatisfied.


Sharon Tate (Robbie) takes the passenger seat as Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) and Cliff Booth (Pitt) take centre stage and drive the film, ending up saving fictional Sharon from the Manson family murderers. It was a nice way of paying tribute to the heroine and creating a story in which Sharon lives on, but in the film the actress was portrayed as a light ethereal beauty, with not much of a backstory or lines, for that matter. One expected more substance to the role and making more use of Robbie`s talent.


I expected the ending to be bloody and crazy and satisfyingly nonsensical. It was all that, but in a low dose, and with virtually no build-up or a very timid one. Overall, for me the film was a visual oasis of beauty, but one that was too long, and did not hit with the same weight as every other Tarantino movie. In the years to come, people will still be speaking of `Pulp Fiction`, `Kill Bill` or `Django: Unchained`, but `Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood` will remain a lonely fairy tale which could have been much more.

 
 
 

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