Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, with Margot Robbie, Dakota Fanning, Tim Roth, James Marsden and Timothy Olyphant in supporting roles, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood follows a faded television actor Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Pitt) as they try to achieve fame in the film industry in 1969 Los Angeles. Tarantino directed the film from his own screenplay.
Reviews – What Critics Says
The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw praised the visual spectacle of the film. “It’s shocking, gripping, dazzlingly shot in the celluloid-primary colors of sky blue and sunset gold: colors with the warmth that Mama Cass sang about.” He goes on to highlight the detailed world that Tarantino built, suggesting there’s something new to experience: “not just erotic cinephilia, but TV-philia, an intense awareness of the small screen background to everyone’s lives,” writes the critic. Considering the “startling and provocative” ending, Bradshaw notes that opinions are going to be divided, yet he does not give spoilers as to what fresh eyes can expect. He gives the film five stars, labeling it “outrageous, disorientating entertainment.”
The Evening Standard, David Sexton noted that the film was split up into two parts, one a “a highly enjoyable but pretty leisurely in-joke, a fond homage to the way Hollywood was back in the day” and the second a denouement that is “sensationally violent even by Quentin’s high standards.” Sexton also praises DiCaprio’s and Pitt’s performances as a frustrated, hard-drinking B-movie actor and his indelibly cool and relaxed sidekick, respectively, while he praises Al Pacino’s brief cameo as DiCaprio’s character’s agent. Sexton doesn’t say much about the finale, but notes the film, “if not a career best, [is] an extraordinary career summation” for Tarantino.
Slash Film’s Jason Gorber acknowledges that its “more challenging than usual” to talk about the film in detail without spoiling its power, yet he praises the pairing of DiCaprio and Pitt as “two of the finest actors in this or any other generation.” He goes on to say, “Given this meaty dialogue, terrific character beats, and the swagger of the setting, they’re at the tops of the game.” Gorber also highlights the rest of the cast, particularly Robbie’s “visually perfect” interpretation of Sharon Tate and Fanning’s “particularly haunting” take on “Squeaky” Fromme. The critic emphasizes the effective design, cinematography and editing that contributed to the “grime and beauty” that Hollywood represents.
Collider, Gregory Ellwood notes that Tarantino has “never made a film that ends up as sweet and nostalgic as his latest,” highlighting the fact that the director never fails to introduce an emotional thrust in his films. The critic talks about how much fun there is to be had in the film, mentioning a scene in particular. “Cliff has a showdown with Bruce Lee on the set of The Green Hornet and his faithful dog deserves star billing.” He goes on to emphasize the punch of the ensemble cast, “Familiar faces such as Timothy Olyphant, Luke Perry, Mark Madsen, Lena Dunham and Damien Lewis stand out in small roles.”
Vanity Fair‘s Richard Lawson praised the first onscreen pairing of DiCaprio and Pitt, who the critic argued had an effortless chemistry. “one’s allegiance to the film is consistently won back by DiCaprio and Pitt, who make easy, and disarmingly humble, platonic poetry out of this curious dynamic,” he wrote. Still, Lawson felt that Tarantino’s allegiance to waxing poetic on his various cultural enthusiasms led the film to occasionally lag, saying that at times in the screening he was “a little bored” and felt some of the scenes didn’t connect much to the other. Nevertheless, “[Tarantino’s] always been a great director of actors, and here he manages to wipe away some of the gunk of time and fame to find an indefinable It-ness that used to get people noticed at lunch counters,” Lawson writes in his overall positive review. “In so doing, Tarantino lets us access some of the love he so ardently wants us to feel for all his cherished arcana.”
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood releases into theaters on July 26.