5/10. Slow moving and largely uneventful. Once Upon a Time In Hollywood does well to be different compared to other Tarantino films, but unfortunately that doesn’t make it any better.
Those words might seem strange given most of the internet is alight with praise, but from our experience, Quentin Tarantino’s 9th film is not what most critics are praising it for. Don’t get us wrong, there are still aspects we love, but while many are calling this his most mature film, we would say they’re mistaking the word “mature” for uneventful.
For the first 2 hours of the film…nothing exciting happens.
Scenes seem to drag on with extended dialogues that are more concerned in coming off as interesting conversations rather than with moving the story along. This might have worked had these conversations actually been interesting, but most of them were just tedious to watch apart from a few humourous moments here and there.
We should also add that we realise this film went for being more of a character study, rather than the bloody action film that what Tarantino is known for (which is probably why many think it’s his most mature film). But even as a character study film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is too slow for its measure.
Yes, the characters are interesting but the way they’re presented isn’t.
Many scenes are 10 minutes or longer but only lead to one purpose to show what the point of the scene was. A few critics have said they enjoyed watching these longer scenes because it allowed the actors to soak up the atmosphere of their characters, but couldn’t this be achieved with scenes where more was happening?
It’s only by the end that things start moving.
Which speaking of, is still a puzzling thing even if we’ve warmed up to it over time. The most enjoyable moments from the film come from the last half hour but everything ended so quickly that when the credits started rolling, we thought “What just happened…is that it?”.
On one hand, we know that ending is exactly what Tarantino wants not only because otherwise, he wouldn’t have written it, but also because it’s subtly reflecting the idea of a night that should never have happened with people that should never have been remembered. But again, couldn’t the same effect be achieved with a final dramatic showdown which would have at least been more enthralling?
Having said that, there is still a lot to like about this film from not only the production design but particularly with the performances. Once Upon a Time In Hollywood is a powerhouse film for Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio to showcase their talent and the chemistry between the leads was one of the best features. Margot Robbie was fine but surprisingly she didn’t really do or say much which feels like another missed opportunity but again fits in with the tamed version of Tarantino.
For some, the restraint in this film has come across as a welcome change of pace but for us, the change didn’t pay off.
At this point in his career, we can see how Tarantino might feel pigeonholed as a director whose audience expects cinematic violence, so the need subvert expectations naturally arises. Unfortunately, our expectations were subverted for the worse.
Maybe with repeat viewings, Once Upon a Time In Hollywood will grow on us. But for now, it’s a soft pass.