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REVIEW: Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Divisive But One Of The Year's Best Movies


One of 2019’s most anticipated movies is finally out and boy was it an experience!

(Also, no “What Movies Are Releasing This Week” blog today. This is the only movie releasing.)

SYNOPSIS via GOOGLE: Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood visits 1969 Los Angeles, where everything is changing, as TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) make their way around an industry they hardly recognize anymore. The ninth film from the writer-director features a large ensemble cast and multiple storylines in a tribute to the final moments of Hollywood’s golden age.

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Jeff (95/100): ‘Once Upon A Time In Hollywood’, driven by award-worthy performances from Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, reinforces Quentin Tarantino as a cinematic genius and might be the best movie of 2019. The uniquely loose structure helps develop the characters and slowly build tension as it closes with an incredible final act.

This ode to Hollywood may not be for everyone, it is unlike most of the movies in Quentin Tarantino’s library. But the artistic vision bleeds wonderfully off the screen. Tarantino does a masterful job about making sure you become emotionally invested to Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Margot Robbie’s presence is a bit more understated, but I liked that her portrayal did a great job of showing off the curious innocence of Sharon Tate. The characters drive this story, and that’s without even mentioning



There are two scenes in this movie, one involving Bruce Lee and one involving Leo’s character, Rick Dalton, reacting to a scene he shot, that are in my Top 5 best scenes of the year. I absolutely loved all the personal moments and the on-screen charisma from Leo and Pitt is some of the best in their respective careers. Tarantino immerses you in late-1960s Hollywood with a gorgeous shooting style and fantastic set pieces.

The pacing plays perfectly into the way the story develops. Slowly the almost slice-of-life-like storylines begin to really merge together as the Manson Family narrative merges with the main characters. It is unorthodox storytelling, but that is part of why I fell in love with this movie from the get-go. The moments that tease the movie’s big payoff start early with small hints and gradually become more significant as the climax draws closer. My only complaint is that the first act could have been tighter, but it didn’t really detract from the movie.


I really can’t say enough good things about ‘Once Upon A Time In Hollywood’ as it exceeded my expectations. Both Leo and Pitt hammered home my favorite performances of the year outside of maybe Taron Egerton in ‘Rocketman’. People should go into the movie with an open mind and the expectation that this will be different than Tarantino movies of the past. With that said, his signature stamp and style is as present as ever and that’s why this has shot up to the top of my list at the halfway point of 2019.

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KenJac (85/100): While an incredibly slow burn, ‘Once Upon A Time In Hollywood’ is a testament to how director Quentin Tarantino can bring out the best performances from even the most well-regarded actors. Being a very deliberate movie that focuses more on aesthetics and character-building than telling a story, it will definitely not be everyone’s cup of tea. However, even people who don’t like it will have plenty of laughs and intrigue in Pitt/DiCaprio’s dynamic that develops throughout the 2-hour 41-minute runtime. 


While the movie is sort of billed as an ensemble cast, the only two performances of note are Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio as Cliff Booth and Rick Dalton. The film focuses on their relationship and how it relates to their respective careers, so they get the lion’s share of screen-time and lines. This is one of Leo’s strongest performances, in my opinion. Playing a washed-up Hollywood actor has to be a weirdly introspective role to prepare for, and he did a phenomenal job portraying a layered character. Brad Pitt is getting a lot of critical acclaim for his performance, and while I do think it was great for the role, I didn’t find it to be much different from his role in ‘Inglourious Basterds’. He’s a badass, mysterious dude who speaks bluntly and doesn’t take anyone’s shit. Again, that is not a bad thing, but I don’t think it was a particularly demanding role, especially compared to Leo’s. I credit Tarantino a ton, both for being able to give them the equal spotlight in roles that matched their strengths as actors, and for giving them both a unique character arc that converged beautifully in the third act. 

The main complaint you will get from both me and most people that saw the film is that the movie seriously does drag in the first two acts. It’s an extremely slow burn that follows a pretty formulaic repetition of aesthetic shots of old Hollywood, flashbacks/digressions and driving sequences set to the top hits of the 1960’s. For me, it got old pretty quick. Tarantino did what he does best, though, wrapping up the film with a dynamic and explosive third act. From a technical standpoint, the film is a total beauty. It’s expertly shot from start to finish, especially in a few scenes where they were filming within the movie. There is one specific long-take during the Bruce Lee digression which caught my eye as being particularly impressive as well. 


Overall, I didn’t find it to be Tarantino’s best work. It’s a gorgeous movie that tells a very Tarantino-esque alternate history take, but I think a solid 45 minutes could have been cut out of it without taking away from Leo and Brad’s dynamic, which is what made the movie great. It’s definitely worth seeing in theaters because, like all of his work, it’s a very cinematic experience-built film. My take: Leo will be nominated for best lead actor. Beyond his performance being objectively amazing, Hollywood loves movies about themselves.


Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie is now Officially Buttered with a pretty high Audience score. Large will join us to review the movie on Lights Camera Barstool, as well as rank all of Quentin Tarantino’s movies. Tune in to this week’s first Lights, Camera, Barstool where we did a nostalgia review on the crappy ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ movie with Johnny Depp. Make sure to rate all 2019 and 2018 movies in the links below.

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