It’s been a few years since the neo-western, The Hateful Eight, divided audiences in the theater and some people might suggest we are back to that same scenario with Quentin Tarantino’s most recent theatrical release, but I beg to differ. Tarantino— love him or hate him— Once Upon a Time in Hollywood might change your perspective on the infamous filmmaker’s body of work. WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD:
To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect as I walked into the Kyova Theater. Yeah, I got some candy, a large popcorn, and coke as proper preparation for the two and a half hour flick and aside from the length of the film I only knew the limited knowledge from spoiler-free articles in a social media feed. I was fully aware of an all-star cast of great actors such as Al Pacino, Kurt Russell, Brad Pitt, and Leo DiCaprio plus a plot that is somehow linked to the Manson Family— That’s it! Needless to say, I left my expectations low, especially since this is Tarantino’s ninth film, so I assumed his creative steam has dwindled. Yet, upon viewing this film, to my surprise, I realized one thing: it’s the most fun I’ve had at the theater in years!
I will refrain from exposing too many details but this is a tale about a seemingly washed-up Hollywood actor, Rick Dalton(Dicaprio), and his stunt double, Rick Booth(Pitt), that have a strong friendship that has exceeded beyond the film reels. Booth is almost like a protective sidekick to Dalton that chauffeurs him to set and listens to his rants about the current state of Hollywood in the late sixties. Dalton is looking to continue his career in film while the ever-changing landscape of Los Angelos is being introduced to a new generation of filmmakers and lifestyles. Multiple cameos from veteran actors portraying pop-culture icons such as Bruce Lee, Sharon Tate, and Charles Manson act as plot devices to a faux-historical story about Helter Skelter and a day in the life of the Hollywood hills.
Quentin Tarantino makes a tremendous leap with this film in terms of style, theme, and storytelling. Straying away from his typical homages to exploitation films of the seventies that couple dialogue-heavy scenes with nonlinear narratives, he instead, drafts a love letter to the golden age of Hollywood cinema and television. My childhood summers were spent with reruns of Gunsmoke and The Andy Griffith Show continuously playing in the background at my grandparents so this film was relatable in its nostalgic value. Not only is this film a mature example of a screenplay, but it’s also a comedic masterpiece that is filled with superb acting and excellent timing, specifically, from the amazing buddy chemistry from Dicaprio and Pitt. You will be quoting their memorable lines from this film more than Pulp Fiction. I wouldn’t be surprised if this film was nominated (possibly winning) best screenplay at the upcoming Oscars.
The first two hours of this movie you may ask yourself what exactly are we leading up too, but Tarantino delivers a wait that is more than worth it. As the film progressed I gradually slipped to the edge of my seat and during the final twenty minutes I was being shushed as I cheered on our heroic leads portrayed by Dicaprio and Pitt. It might be wise to bring some restraints for your chair because I promise you won’t be leaning back in the recliner takin’ it easy. Once Upon A Time in Hollywood is showing at KYOVA theater at 11:50am, 1:50pm, 3:25pm, 5:25pm, 7:00pm, 9:00pm. Go see it!
Cinephile Edwin Callihan attends local opening-night showings at Kyova 10 Theater and shares his thoughts the following day.