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Movie Review: "Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood"

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood

Theatrical Release: 7/26/2019

Theatrical Release: 7/26/2019

Synopsis

It is the late 1960s, and Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a Hollywood star. He had a hit television show, and has been in a collection of classic action movies which have made him famous. Recently, however, Rick Dalton has been doing guest spot after guest spot on various television series. He comes in as the week’s antagonist, loses to the protagonist, and moves on to the next show.

Unfortunately, Rick Dalton is starting to get the impression that his career is on the decline. It has been awhile since his last leading role, so he is struggling with the idea of being a "has been." Fortunately, his closest friend remains at his side. Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) has been Rick Dalton’s stunt double for most of his career. The two are very close friends, who share a passion for action movies and have a shared annoyance with hippies. The end of their careers may be on the horizon, and tragedy may be coming even sooner, but they will go through it all together.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

The ProsThe Cons

Leonardo DiCaprio (+8pts)

Too Long (-5pts)

Brad Pitt (+6pts)

Sharon Tate (-4pts)

The Climax (+5pts)

The Hippies (-4pts)

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Pro: Leonardo DiCaprio (+8pts)

I liked the character Rick Dalton, and Leonardo DiCaprio was a major reason why. The character is dealing with age, which is something that we can all relate to on some level. He is struggling with not being what he once was, and he is struggling with the ghosts of days gone by. It would have been an easy story to relate to, regardless of who was in the role, but Leonardo DiCaprio made the character much more than just "relatable”.

He made the character compelling, through his great performance. Leonardo DiCaprio really sunk his teeth into this character as an actor, which made me sink my teeth into the character as a viewer. I was totally invested in this character and what he was going through. Rick Dalton was not exactly a “good“ guy in this story, but I still found the character captivating. Leonardo DiCaprio made this a captivating character whenever he was on screen, and was definitely one of this movie’s biggest strengths.

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Con: Too Long (-5pts)

A movie’s long runtime, alone, is not enough for me to think a movie is too long. If you have a movie that is six hours long, and has six hours worth of relevant plot, then I will be okay with that movie’s runtime. Avengers: Endgame is a great example of a long movie that was filled with relevant story, which engaged me from start to finish, and made me feel like it needed to be at least as long as it was. Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood had a two hour and forty one minute runtime, but felt like it only had about an hour and forty minutes worth of relevant story. As a result, the movie felt much longer and more drawn out than it needed to be.

It was almost as if the filmmakers decided, before ever writing the script, that they wanted the movie to be close to three hours. It felt like they had a script that was a lot shorter than the movie they wanted to make, so they stretched it out as much as possible. The most notable example of this was Margot Robbie’s character, but that deserves its own section in this review. To put it simply, there were a lot of irrelevant, drawn out scenes throughout this movie. This made the movie feel unnecessarily long, a bit incoherent, and somewhat boring in a number of sections.

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Pro: Brad Pitt (+6pts)

Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, Rick Dalton, moved the plot along and provided the majority of the story’s drama. Brad Pitt’s character, Cliff Booth, was the character that provided most of the film’s more memorable and entertaining moments. Cliff Booth was Rick Dalton’s stunt double and, as a result, spent most of his career in Rick Dalton’s shadow. The character is not in the best financial situation, and is very far from living the life of luxury that Rick Dalton lives. Nonetheless, Cliff Booth is a loyal friend, and also happens a total badass.

Throughout this movie, he got in some precarious situations, and got in a few entertaining fights (one being far more entertaining than the other). I do not want to get into any details regarding these fights, because that would definitely be spoiler territory, but know that these were some of my favorite scenes in this movie. Cliff Booth was also the more likable of the two characters (between him and Rick Dalton). He was a simply written, yet effective character. There was nothing complicated about him, but he had some pretty memorable moments. I liked Rick Dalton because he was compelling, but I liked Cliff Booth because he was simply entertaining. Together, they were a pair that complemented each other well.

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Con: Sharon Tate (-4pts)

I honestly could not tell you why this character was in this movie. Maybe Quentin Tarantino had a script that did not have any female characters, so he wanted to force one in there. Perhaps, Quentin Tarantino thought that Margot Robbie looked like Sharon Tate, and wanted to get her in this movie in an effort to take advantage of that resemblance. Either way, she was completely irrelevant to the entire plot of the movie.

We got to see her dancing randomly, driving randomly, going to see a movie, and doing almost every possible thing except for being relevant to the plot. Throughout the movie, I kind of assumed her character would eventually tie into everything else in the end. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Instead, she was just kind of “around” and did not serve the plot in any way other than to make the movie longer. This was a bummer to me, because I like Margot Robbie, but cutting out all of her scenes would have made the movie feel much more concise.

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Pro: The Climax (+5pts)

Okay, I am not going to say much about this because one of my favorite parts about it was that I did not see it coming. The climax of the story felt like it came out of nowhere, and it was so much fun to watch. It did not feel like the rest of the story was building up to this, which is why it felt like a surprise. That being said, as it was approaching, I could kind of see it coming in the sense that I knew something was going to go down. However, it was so much better than I anticipated. Again, I do not want to spoil this, so that is all I will say about it, but if you end up seeing this movie, I think you are going to like the ending a lot.

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Con: The Hippies (-4pts)

At first, I thought that these characters were very similar to Sharon Tate. What I mean by that is that I thought they were random, irrelevant characters that would not connect to the main story and were just taking up screen time. As the movie progressed, they became more and more involved in the main story. Unfortunately, I still think these characters needed some improvement.

I do not think they needed a lot of character development, but they definitely needed more than they got. They actually mattered to the story, but I did not understand why they would want to do what they wanted to do. Their involvement in the story was definitely memorable, but the lack of character development made their involvement feel random and forced. I really think that taking Sharon Tate out of the story all together, and giving just a little more development to the hippies, would have gone a long way in making these characters feel relevant throughout the story.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: B- (81pts)

I did not know much about the plot of this movie before seeing it and, unfortunately, I did not know much about the plot during the actual movie. The biggest reason for this was that the filmmakers had a plot, then added an irrelevant character who got way too much screen time (Sharon Tate), while also giving far too little development to some of the characters that ended up being more involved in the main story (the hippies). I honesty do not understand why Sharon Tate was in the movie, and I definitely do not understand why she got so much focus. All she did was use up screen time, which made the movie much longer than it needed to be.

It was as if the filmmakers made a long movie just for the sake of making a long movie. Fortunately, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt were enough to make the movie watchable. Leonardo DiCaprio’s character brought a compelling character story about aging, which gave the actor a lot to sink his teeth into. Brad Pitt’s character was a badass, and was loyal to a fault, which gave Brad Pitt a character that was easy for the audience to connect with and who had plenty of entertaining scenes. Both characters brought something different to the movie, and both actors played their roles really well, while having an on-screen friendship that was fun to watch. On top of having two, strong main characters, the movie's climax was insane in the most entertaining way. There was a lot to like about this movie, but it could have been a lot better, and more coherent, if the filmmakers had trimmed away a lot of the fat.