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Review: Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood, or Has It Really Been Nine Films Already?

"Let's try and do that dance John Travolta did in Pulp Fiction."

Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood is the ninth film from director Quentin Tarantino (Kill Bill Volumes 1 and 2 count as one film). He's famously quoted as dead set on doing only ten films during his career, so I guess that leaves just one more film left before he supposedly retires.

After watching this film, I've come to a not-so-shocking discovery: Quentin Tarantino is actually not the Hollywood wunderkind a lot of people think him to be.

That wasn't some haphazardly drawn conclusion as well. Tarantino displayed some directorial lapses in this film, lapses that may be forgiven for first-time directors, but not for someone who's on his ninth film. Actually, I counted only two lapses, but that's still two more than what should be expected of him. The two lapses I'm talking about involve a mismatched cut, and a horribly composed shot. There's also a minor lapse in the very first scene, but I'll let that slide because 1) it's more of having a feeling that something's off rather than being able to pinpoint what's off exactly; and 2) I watched this to be entertained, not to nitpick.

By the way, I'm not here to bash Quentin Tarantino's work. What he has going for him, definitely, is his original storytelling. Each and every single Tarantino-directed film is an original screenplay. He's never been lured by the chance to direct a superhero flick, or a film based on a book. Tarantino's films have their own cinematic universe, and I can think of no other filmmaker right now who never took off his auteur cap in his entire career.

"I would say Chris Nolan, but he doesn't really write his own stuff."

Moving on to the actual review, I'd like to start with the acting. This film has two great actors in the lead roles, thanks to Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, who play the actor-stuntman tandem of Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth. Now the dynamics of that relationship is quite complicated: the actor of course is seen as higher than a stuntman in the Hollywood pecking order, and this is reflected in Cliff Booth's other job as Dalton's driver. I think DiCaprio and Pitt were able to pull it off, although there are instances where you see them as equals rather than the pseudo-employer-employee relationship the two of them should have. You with me so far? I told you it's quite complicated.

I have also come to realise that Tarantino's foot fetish is now officially creepy. I mean, I wouldn't mind close-ups of feet, as long as it propels the story forward. But to show feet close-ups just for the sake of showing them? No, thank you. He even gave Dakota Fanning's feet some considerable screen time, and I've also just realised that Dakota Fanning has hideous feet.

And finally, my main problem with Tarantino movies – and this is just me – is his use of alternate realities. Some people call this "revisionist fiction", but I'll just stick to calling it alternate realities. Tarantino did this before in Inglorious Basterds, where the Basterds ended up killing Adolf Hitler (which we all know didn't happen at all). In this film, the Tate murders never happened, and the Manson Family killers ended up dead at the hands of Dalton and Booth. What's my problem with alternate realities, you ask? I don't know how to properly explain it, but I am of the opinion that realities must be kept separate. Sure, there can be an infinite number of realities, each one different from the others, but they must never merge. Sure, you can travel between realities, from one reality to another, but they must never merge. Why? Because merging realities is the first step to insanity. And when one takes the first step of the journey to insanity, coherence and clarity are the first to go.

"How about an alternate reality where I do a Tony Montana as Michael Corleone?"

Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood. USA/UK/China. 2019.

Original rating: 7.6/10
Al Pacino: +0.1
Brad Pitt: +0.1
Not enough Margot Robbie: -0.1
Margaret Qualley's armpit hair: -0.2
Old school Columbia Pictures logo: +0.1
Luke Perry: +0.1
Terrible Bruce Lee portrayal: -0.1
Charles Manson being played by same actor who played Manson in Netflix's Mindhunter: +0.1
Tarantino's foot fetish: -0.1
Final rating: 7.8/10


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