Recommendation: 3/5 Stars, STREAM
Plot: “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.” -IMDB
Review: To call “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood,” a movie about the movie industry would be simplistic. Yet, trying to figure out what to call it is the slightly frustrating part. On one hand, it is a story focused on a television star, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, who is beginning to see the sunset on his career. Then there is his trusted stunt double, played by Brad Pitt, who is trying to figure out his own life beyond the shadow of his friend and business partner. On the other hand, this is a story about Charles Manson and the brutal murder of Sharon Tate, played by Margot Robbie. The lengths we must go to see these two storylines intersect is what moved me from calling this a great film to an average effort.
Stylistically, this is a Quentin Tarantino movie and serves as an ode to the Hollywood which has inspired much of his career. Choosing to tell a story about what happens behind the camera was a risky move that left me searching for a character in which I would emotionally invest. For the first half of the film, my energies were focused on Rick Dalton’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) struggle with the truth about his career. In the second half of the film, my focus shifted toward Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) and how much of his path was determined by the success of Rick. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would also have to worry about Charles Manson.
Which leads me to my biggest complaint with this film, much of it felt disconnected and slow to reveal the true plot. Now, there is an infinite number of ways to tell a story. They can be character studies or stories driven by narrative. Those steered by a story where I can grasp on tightly are the ones, I am most commonly drawn to most often. This film isn’t that kind of story. It isn’t until Cliff arrives at the ranch where Manson’s crew has assembled, did I become emotionally invested.
From the intense moments at the ranch, we move back to focus on Rick’s challenges and rebirth as a star of Italian movies and “Spaghetti Westerns.” Feeling confident and sure of himself again, we are invited back to his place where our two plot lines truly reveal themselves. Here Tarantino works movie magic and delivers a creative retelling of the Manson murders; which doesn’t bother me.
In the end, this film didn’t land for me. More often than not, I found myself questioning where I should be investing my emotional energy. That search was distracting and for that, I recommend you stream this one.
Be good to each other,
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