Return To: Board Index | Full Reviews

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019)

500 character mini-reviews cramping your style? Share your thoughts in full in this forum!
Posts: 765
4032 Ratings
Your TCI: na
Joined: Wed Jan 06, 2010 7:54 am

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019)

Postby VinegarBob » Thu Jan 02, 2020 5:47 am

*****Spoiler Alert******

The way Quentin Tarantino made and promoted this movie kind of made me think of The Sixth Sense. That is when you watch it for the first time it's enjoyable enough right up until the end because you don't know about the twist. But once you see the end and reflect on the movie as a whole you realize how problematic it is, and how the director basically had to hoodwink you into seeing things one way so that you'll be surprised when things don't turn out the way you expected when it comes time for the finale. This is magnified in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood when the film is at least peripherally dealing with an actual historical event.

There are many scenes in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood whose only purpose is to inform the audience of details pertaining to Sharon Tate, her relationship with Roman Polanski and Jay Sebring, and tangentially Charles Manson. Tate is one of the three main characters, and even though she has very little to say or do in the movie we spend an inordinate amount of time with her. We're invested in her as a character from the first time we see her because she's oblivious to how ugly and brutal her fate is - and how imminent it is - whereas we are. Or at least we believe we are. She has our sympathies, even if she weren't portrayed as some sort of angelic presence rather than a real person. However, watching the movie a second time you realize that most of the scenes she's in are completely superfluous, as the film isn't about her or the real life Manson murders, as it turns out. Why are we spending so much time being around a character that has nothing to do with where the film is ultimately heading? The answer is that we really shouldn't be. She's a symbol of lost innocence. Yes, we get it, but you don't have to interrupt what's going on in the movie every 5 minutes to keep reminding us. It really disrupts the flow of the movie and breaks the immersion in the main characters and what they're doing. When you watch the movie a second time these scenes are a drag to sit through because you know they're ultimately nothing more than a diversionary tactic for Tarantino's big surprise in the third act, which obviously isn't a surprise to anyone who's already seen it. I guess the title gives away his real intent to a certain extent, but the constant switching from the main story to focus on a tertiary character doing nothing leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

This is a movie about a washed up movie star struggling with self confidence and unable to hold the limelight like he used to. It's also about a stuntman who's best days are behind him, and more specifically it's about the relationship between the two in a movie industry that's moving faster than they can keep up with. What it's absolutely not about, as it turns out, is the Tate-LaBianca murders. This is a problem because Tarantino does his best to try to convince the audience that it is, right up until he pulls the rug out from under us a la M. Night Shyamalan, who consistently misled his audience into thinking one thing for the sole purpose of being able to say 'gotcha!' at the end of The Sixth Sense. This is at odds with Tarantino's stated intent of having a filmography that will last through the years and that he can be proud of, because In it's current form Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is a 'once and done' movie. And although the scenes with DiCaprio and Pitt are thoroughly entertaining, as are many other aspects of the movie - the costume design, music, cinematography, production design etc. - sitting through scenes of exposition concerning what turns out to be an irrelevant character is annoying after the first viewing, and makes the film as a whole drag on each subsequent viewing.

I've watched this movie 3 times now, but the second and third times were not the same movie as the first one I watched. I got the blu-ray and ripped it to an mkv file then edited out almost half an hour of footage - the silly Bruce Lee scene and the even sillier Great Escape scene, and trimmed some of the Sharon Tate scenes. Tate's a peripheral character, and as such shouldn't take up the kind of screen time devoted to her in the full version. What we have in the full version is a 2 hour 41 minute movie, with a bunch of irrelevant and distracting scenes crowbarred into a really interesting and funny tale of a pair of amiable characters weaving in and out of a brilliantly realized Hollywood landscape in 1969. The version I've been watching still runs a leisurely 2 hours 15 minutes, but doesn't have any fat on it. It flows much better, is more focused and I find it much more enjoyable. It's the version I'll be watching from now on.

'Full' Version: 5/10
Edited Version: 8/10
Last edited by VinegarBob on Tue Jan 14, 2020 10:27 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Posts: 183
3933 Ratings
Your TCI: na
Joined: Thu Aug 18, 2011 10:13 pm

Re: Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Postby ribcage » Fri Jan 03, 2020 1:21 am

Except I don't find that the movie is "about" any of these characters in particular in essence, but is all about the fairytale of the era, Hollywood on the cusp of New Hollywood and all the types of people that inhabited it and their circumstances. For me, the Tate scenes are essential because the punch of the film is giving all these unsung, or gone-to-soon legends their own "ever after."

If it's strictly "about" Dalton and Boothe, it kind of sucks because then it's just about two guys past their prime who sort of drift through coping with that, fall into new roles in life, then kind of drift on like that and into oblivion...and the alternate history intruding on that would just be baffling as a whole. But taken altogether, Dalton, a has-been, rides off into the sunset remembered and beloved for when he was a legend.

Posts: 2
274 Ratings
Your TCI: na
Joined: Thu Apr 04, 2013 3:27 am

Re: Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Postby Mihow » Fri Jan 03, 2020 2:02 am

In what way did Tarantino promote this film as being about the Tate murders or Manson? As someone who was absurdly excited about a new flick from him, I was under the impression that QT was going to take the setting as an inspiration to make a movie, ala Inglorious Basterds. Unless you meant specifically in-film, which I can't find a reason why that would be so. If you let the film speak for itself, it's about the two men as you say, with a feminant / absurdly happy story about a beautiful woman that is living her life in almost pure bliss that has no idea something bad is about to happen to her ... or not. The tension is used to make Tate's scenes appreciable, melodramatic, and sad.

If you take out her scenes, you take out all femininity from it, most of the joy, and a large part of the tension. Sure, you still get Brad Pitt going to the ranch but what else is there? It's a film about the old days of Hollywood starring two guys who starred in the old days of Hollywood not even 8 years ago. You may as well edit the film down until we're watching Misery.

You're basically correct in your second paragraph but just don't seem to care about the point. Deleting all of here scene's seemed to have cut a whopping 20+ minutes. The second time is when I fell head over heels about all of Tate's scenes: the walk to the bookstore - theater - watching herself (her being pleased with the audience enjoying her is maybe a top-10 all time happy scene), the party scene where Damian Fucking Lewis, Mr Dick Winters himself, tells us, as Steve McQueen (more on him later), all about her, the Polish Prick, and Sebring in the award for 'best one minute of screen time ever', etc. This was literal masturbatory cinema from QT for our pleasure and I feel some people were offended by being presented exactly what they wanted.

I've watched this 4 times (sincerely, not in a weird way to upstage your 3); twice in theater, once as soon as I got the 4k, and once with two friends completely intoxicated on tequila and each time I've gotten a greater sense of the importance of Tate and how great Margot Robbie did playing her in the little time she got.

Posts: 765
4032 Ratings
Your TCI: na
Joined: Wed Jan 06, 2010 7:54 am

Re: Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Postby VinegarBob » Fri Jan 03, 2020 6:39 pm

Interesting, and I'm glad you like the film and the Sharon Tate stuff so much. I think Margot Robbie did a great job considering what she was given.

Just to clarify a few points, as I notice all the talk about removing all of the Sharon Tate stuff. I feel I misrepresented the focus on cutting Sharon Tate scenes in the above post. It seemed that way because the movie keeps cutting to her at weird times but in actual fact very little of her role as a whole is gone from the edited version, and what's left flows better imo. I think you could make an argument for cutting out more but I didn't want to completely change the film in a way that wasn't intended, even though I would have gone about it differently, so left most of her scenes in. I understand her role in the movie. She still has tons of screentime in the edited version. She's still an integral part of the experience and serves the purpose of her presence as Tarantino intended just fine. In fact I didn't cut any full Sharon Tate scenes; Of the two scenes I edited that she's in she's not the focus of one (the playboy mansion scene), and I trimmed the other - the movie theater scene, which I cut after she gains admittance because after that the scene is just self indulgent trash and another excuse to have feet onscreen - I'm so sick of indulging Tarantino's foot fetish.

The party scene at the playboy mansion is just a really awkwardly handled expository scene that Tate doesn't really play a part in. That scene's sole purpose is to explain to those in the audience who don't know why Sebring is living with Tate when Polanski is her husband. Granted Damian Lewis was good - he's always good, but that scene is just so random and unnecessary it had to go. I believe any good editor who's not under Tarantino's spell would have removed that scene. And seeing as we already have a narrator interjecting at points throughout the movie to explain stuff it would have been better to handle that info dump by having him explain it instead, especially considering that the playboy mansion wasn't even the playboy mansion until Hefner moved in in 1974.

The reason I got to thinking about editing this movie wasn't because of the Sharon Tate scenes. She doesn't really bother me, aside from the character's main function being to facilitate the bait and switch tactic I mentioned as a criticism of the film as a whole. No, what got me to thinking about editing some of the bloat out of the movie was the ridiculous Bruce Lee scene. I'm not even going to bother explaining why that scene shouldn't be there. And the Great Escape scene is just pure self indulgence run amok. Those two scenes have no place in this movie except as some amusing outtakes. But once I set about removing those two scenes it got me to thinking about what Tarantino was actually trying to do in this movie.

Structurally the movie is a bit of a mess, and once I dug around and really thought about how it was put together I started noticing how haphazard some of it was, and it's because of a few long Sharon Tate scenes which are cut up and sprinkled throughout the main thrust of the narrative. It really disrupts the flow of the movie, and is quite jarring at times. I got the impression that the Sharon Tate stuff was the last element added to the movie, after the basic narrative and structure were in place.

Tarantino had the idea to tell the story of the washed up movie star and his stuntman, which he thought was a really interesting dynamic because of something that happened to him onset one day (Tarantino said this was the genesis of him making this movie in an interview), so the movie really does have a narrative - at it's core it's about about Rick and his relationship with Cliff. This was crystal clear to me when I was editing specific scenes. And it is an interesting story, despite the fact that they don't really do much. Tarantino also wanted to tie their story in with a specific time period when the film industry was changing rapidly which mirrors the protagonist's situation. Things are moving on, the world is changing, the old is being left behind - a great idea that he pulls off very well.

But Tarantino also wanted to tie all this in with the Manson murders - which he again does well. But this is where things get problematic, because although Tate's story also ties in with the changing times and signaled the end of a more peaceful, happy and innocent era he wants to have his cake and eat it too. He wants to do all these things but doesn't want to carry it through to the end. Our sadness and sympathy for Tate is misplaced in this movie because nothing bad happens to her. Everything is a lie. The scenes showing her being happy and carefree are meaningless, because in Tarantino's world she remains that way. Her happiness and innocence remain intact forever, and this goes against everything the film is trying to do outside of her story. This is the crux of my problem with the movie (aside from the instances of self indulgence leading to a comically bloated running time), and why Tate's role should be toned down with the ending the way it is. Either that or the movie should be about her, Polanski, the Manson Family and the actual murders. Trying to have it both ways is what kills this movie.

Personally I would have preferred him to follow through on his theme of lost innocence by having the Manson murders at the end of the movie as it was in real life. Then the melancholia we experience while watching Tate being so happy would have been earned. And everything would have tied in beautifully with what Tarantino was trying to say in this movie, but if that were the ending then the Dalton and Booth story has nowhere to go, and you start to wonder why they have so much screentime. It would be the same situation except reversed. One of the great things about this movie is how everything is all tied together, but the third act turnaround spoils that sense of balance.

The fact is that the Dalton/Booth story and the Tate story are incompatible with each other, if you still want to have a movie that has some sensible structure, so one of them has to take a back seat, and in this movie that's clearly Sharon Tate. She basically has no story because the main reason she's remembered isn't for what she did in her life, sadly. So the only interesting thing about her isn't actually in the movie that features her extensively. It just doesn't work. And any tension Tarantino generates by focusing so heavily on her (and not by giving her lots of scenes, rather just jamming parts of her few scenes into the rest of the movie at regular intervals) is him using our knowledge of events outside of the movie against us. It's a dishonest way of generating tension - something Tarantino is usually a master at doing without resorting to such cheap methods.

The bottom line is that Tarantino tried to do too much and just missed the mark. The best he came up with is what we have - a schizophrenic and slightly dishonest movie that's trying to do three things at once and only manages two. But those two things are great, and in my opinion the way to iron things out is to concentrate on the those and tone down the third. There's a coherent and very enjoyable two and a quarter hour movie in that 2 hour 41 minute running time. You just have to trim away the excess fat for it feel more consistent within itself, to flow much better, and to make more sense.

Posts: 978
1066 Ratings
Your TCI: na
Joined: Thu Sep 03, 2009 11:08 am

Re: Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019)

Postby movieboy » Mon Feb 10, 2020 4:36 pm

This has to be Tarantino's worst movie. It's dull, boring & doesn't even have the sparkling dialogues that other Tarantino movies have. And so many actors - Al Pacino in a 3 minute role, Madsen in a half a minute role & so many such others. Apparently, the movie even has Damien Lewis but I didn't even notice him. Rated it at Tier 2.

Return to “Full Reviews”