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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.

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 he has starred in some classic action movies that 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.

Rick Dalton is getting the impression that his career is on the decline. It has been awhile since his last leading role, and 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 who 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

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Leonardo DiCaprio (+8pts)

Too Long (-5pts)

Brad Pitt (+6pts)

Sharon Tate (-4pts)

The Climax (+5pts)

The Hippies (-4pts)

movie-review-once-upon-a-time-in-hollywood

Pro: Leonardo DiCaprio (+8pts)

I liked the character of Rick Dalton, and Leonardo DiCaprio was a major reason why. The character was dealing with age, which is something that we can all relate to on some level. He was struggling with not being what he once was, and he was 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.

Leonardo DiCaprio made the character compelling, through his great performance. He really sunk his teeth into this character as an actor, which made me sink my teeth into the character as a viewer. Rick Dalton was not exactly a “good“ guy in this story, but the problem he was facing was so real, and it was interesting to see how a person like him would handle the realization of his own mortality. He was once a great action hero, but his career seemed to be nearing its end, and he was not mentally prepared for that. However, time does not wait for anyone, and it was coming for him whether he was ready for it or not. Long story short, this was an interesting character story, and I thought Leonardo DiCaprio did a great job with it.

movie-review-once-upon-a-time-in-hollywood

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 it has six hours worth of relevant plot or things that keep the movie interesting, then I will be okay with that movie’s runtime. Avengers: Endgame was a great example of a long movie that had me hooked from start to finish. This made it a three hour movie that felt more like two or two and a half. Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood had a two hour and forty one minute runtime, but it 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 they possibly could. 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 at times.

movie-review-once-upon-a-time-in-hollywood

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 movie’s more memorable and entertaining moments. Cliff Booth was Rick Dalton’s stunt double, and as a result, he spent most of his career in Rick Dalton’s shadow. The character was not in the best financial situation, and he was very far from living the life of luxury that Rick Dalton lived. Nonetheless, Cliff Booth was a loyal friend, and he also happened to be a total badass.

Throughout this movie, he got in some precarious situations, and he got in a few entertaining fights. I do not want to get into any details regarding these fights, but know that these were some of my favorite scenes in this movie. Cliff Booth was also the more likable of the two main characters. He was a simply written, yet effective character. I liked Rick Dalton because he was compelling, but I liked Cliff Booth because his motivations were so simple and his actions were so entertaining. Together, they were a pair that complemented each other really 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 here. Perhaps, Quentin Tarantino thought that Margot Robbie looked so much like Sharon Tate, so he forced her into this movie more than she needed to be to showcase that resemblance. Either way, she was completely irrelevant to the main plot of the movie.

We got to see her dancing randomly, driving randomly, going to see a movie randomly, and doing almost every possible thing except for being relevant to the story. Throughout the movie, I kind of assumed her character would eventually tie into everything else in the end, especially knowing how the real-life events this movie was based on played out. Unfortunately, that was not the case, as by the end of this movie, she ended up contributing nothing to this story. I like Margot Robbie, but cutting out all of her scenes would have better served this story. They could have teased her presence in the end, but they definitely did not need to give her the screentime she got, especially considering the inconsequential things she was doing the whole time.

movie-review-once-upon-a-time-in-hollywood

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. It really did not feel like the rest of the story was building up to this, which was why it felt like such 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. It then came and 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.

movie-review-once-upon-a-time-in-hollywood

Con: The Hippies (-4pts)

At first, I thought that these characters were very similar to Sharon Tate. I thought they were random, irrelevant characters that would not connect to the main story and were just there to take up screen time. However, 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 without meaning. I really think that taking Sharon Tate out of the story all together, and giving even a little more development to the hippies, would have gone a long way in making these characters feel relevant as well as making the climax feel more impactful.

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

movie-review-once-upon-a-time-in-hollywood

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 they added an irrelevant character who got way too much screen time, while also giving far too little development to some of the characters that ended up being more important to the main story. I honesty do not understand why Sharon Tate was in the movie, and I definitely do not understand why she got as much focus as she did. 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 keep things entertaining. 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 he 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 the unnecessary stuff and gave more attention to the things that mattered.

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