Once Upon a Time In…Hollywood (MINOR SPOILERS REVIEW)

Per IMDB: “A faded television actor and his stunt double strive to achieve fame and success in the film industry during the final years of Hollywood’s Golden Age in 1969 Los Angeles.”

What I liked:

  • The old movies that Leo DiCaprio’s character was awesomely placed into.
  • The makeup job on the actor playing Steve McQueen.
  • Brad Pitt’s character’s dog Brandy.

What I disliked:

(DISCLAIMER) I’m totally going to get attacked for having a difference of opinion. Look, I love Quentin Tarantino. Pulp Fiction was one of the first “grown-up” movies I had ever watched (along with “Se7en” and “the Usual Suspects”). Pulp Fiction had such an impact on me that every time I would sit down to write anything, I would have my VHS copy of the movie playing in the background, inspiring me while cheering me on to keep going. I love Jackie Brown (which is a slower, more character focused movie), and it was my favorite movie of his until Kill Bill volume 1. I didn’t like Inglourious Basterds at first, but now its in a forever 3-way tie with Kill Bill v 1 and Jackie Brown as my favorites. Reservoir Dogs is one of the most powerful debut features of any filmmaker ever. All those movies were edited by the late Sally Menke and produced by Lawrence Bender. Basterds would also be the last time Tarantino would work with either person, as Menke unfortunately passed away and I don’t know why Mr. Bender and QT don’t work together anymore. But why do I love those movies so much more than the ones he has made without those two making the journey with him?

  • Pacing. The 3 movies he’s made in the last seven years are extremely slow burns in terms of pacing. Plus, both Django Unchained and Once Upon clock in over 2 hours and 40 minutes, while the Hateful Eight is just under three hours. Tarantino has gotten into a habit of just letting scenes run longer than they need.
  • This movie honestly feels like many random scenes spliced together, book-ended by superstar cameos or Tarantino regulars, barely telling the story summarized by IMDB. [SPOILER ALERT] That Bruce Lee scene you see in the trailer? While fun, it is something that could’ve been said in a 10 second piece of dialog and not drawn out to two long scenes.
  • At some point, Tarantino must’ve fallen in love with horses and cowboy hats. Django Unchained? Western. Hateful Eight? Post civil war western. Once Upon? Main character was a famous Western-tv show star. [SPOILER] There’s an overly-long and pointless sequence at a ranch that studios used to frequently shoot westerns at. Seriously, they build up a side character to interact with Brad Pitt so they could go to this ranch……..and nothing that impacts the story even happens during this scene. That character doesn’t even show up after this! (that is why I call it pointless). I think Tarantino just wanted to shoot there. And film more horses.
  • Of all the movies in his career, I feel like the characters in this one have the weakest character arcs. Not much happens in their screen lives, and I did not feel sympathy for any of them. They barely suffer any sort of dilemma before things get nicely wrapped up.
  • What is up with the posters for this movie? They’re almost as bad as the ones for Spider-man: Far From Home. Excluding the one I’ve posted above and the fake posters for the fake movies, they are all just generic character posters. Tarantino’s posters always had a flare to them. Remember the iconic Pulp Fiction one? How about the black and yellow eye-catcher for Kill Bill? The ones for this movie are just lazy, but that seems to be happening industry-wide.
  • Speaking of flare, I think this movie has a severe lack of it. We’re supposed to fall in love with an older Hollywood Blvd, and the simpler time of 1969, but we hardly see any of it. Most of the movie is of people talking to each other. Richard Linklater could’ve directed this movie.
  • I have a problem with Quentin Tarantino’s films post Sally Menke and Lawrence Bender. I feel like they just meander. He’s always been someone so defensively in love with his own movies (he does not take kindly to criticism) and I feel like maybe he just surrounds himself with “Yes People” nowadays. I feel like no one calls him out on any mistakes. My gut tells me that what Sally Menke and Lawrence Bender brought to the table was discipline.
  • Almost all of the positive reviews I’ve read have pointed out a lot of the same things I mention above BUT, they all still give him a pass “because he’s Quentin Tarantino” and they all love him anyway. Which is not fair at all. No matter how much I love his earlier work, I’m not going to happily accept a product I think doesn’t match the bar of quality he set himself. We love our children, our families, our spouses. But if they do something wrong, do we just let it go because we love them? That’s now how things work.
  • It is well-known that he’s got a foot fetish, and he really lets that fetish fly in this movie.
  • [SPOILER] He also has a growing reputation about mistreatment of women, and there’s some stuff in this that is hard to watch.

Overall: My least-favorite film of his, and one of my least-favorite films I’ve seen all year.

Jose Zuazua is editor-in-chief of Quick Lunch Break Reviews. He has an associates degree in film production & is the host of the A Little Drive Podcast. He’s on Twitter & Instagram.

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