A CINEMATIC MASTERCLASS IN THE LESSONS OF HOLLYWOOD
This is it, the moment we have all been waiting for. I would love to present my findings from Quentin Tarantino’s 9th film: Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. This little bunny has been majorly excited about this for a long time, so much so that my nearest and dearest are simply overjoyed with relief, as the enthusiasm was beginning to wear thin. Also, just to make extra sure that I would be absolutely fluid in my opinion, I even watched it twice.
Tarantino is no stranger to a bit of blood and gore, abhorrent behaviour and lack of political correctness, and OUATIH is absolutely no exception to that. From its quirky classic Hollywood marketing campaign to the controversy in Cannes this year many (including myself), have been patiently awaiting the arrival of the movie to the big screen for quite some time now.
Set on the backdrop of 1960’s Los Angeles and the illustrious events of the time that begrudgingly gave fame to the Manson Family. OUATIH mainly follows the story of western TV actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). They both live through the challenges set by an ever-changing, modern society and must try to adapt in order to survive the Hollywood movie business at the end of a golden era. Dalton’s fate is intertwined with that of the tragedy that became of rising star Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) except, with a Tarantino twist.
This movie is indeed a ‘love letter’ to Hollywood from Tarantino. We see his influences, treasured memories and those significant events from the time displayed quite clearly throughout the scenes. It does not lack nostalgia but rather, plays into the hearts of many a film lover that watch this film.
Talent Selection – DiCaprio and Pitt are perfectly partnered and make a decorative, transfixing and talented team on screen. DiCaprio’s acting is outstanding and Pitt makes the perfect wing-man any actor could want by their side (f there aren’t any award nods for these exceptional performances then there is something very wicked going on in Hollywood). Robbie’s part in the movie, however, is small, but significant enough to pack a punch in terms of the films marketability, visual and narrative structure. She also has very few lines and screen time which have been noted and picked up by various media outlets and journalists. I figure this is sort of Tarantino’s point though. The screen time she does have displays an intimate look into her life at that time but at the same time portrays her thoughts and feelings carefully and then projects them across to the audience in a more creative sense. Margot Robbie is also an insanely talented actress, and this is what makes her role in the movie so special.
Technical Creativeness – The cinematography in this film was classic Tarantino in my opinion. He wows the audience with visually stunning scenes as to either allure or distracts from what is going on in the cinematic context of the movie. This is a technique which we see in Tarantino’s other movies as well. For example, Kill Bill; Vol.1: he makes use of black and white imaging and then changes the colour back gradually as to explain the scene in a more graphical and imaginative context. This ensures that the audience gets the full experience absolutely grasps what he is trying to say. It is a creative trait that he pulls off so very fluently in his work.
The changes in screen size lure the audience in as well as transporting them back to a bygone era – the screen changes in size depending on the context, so it may jump from the widescreen (16:9) and cut into the old square VT interviews then switches straight back to the actual story. I really like this kind of storytelling (it has to fit the concept) as I am mostly a visual person, so the changes in screen size grasped my attention.
STAND OUT SCENE
Picture the scene: Dalton is on set and back in his trailer for a break between takes. He is stomping around, shouting and arguing with himself about his how has messed up that scene. He starts to self-sabotage in the most enraging way. His unprofessionalism and lack of finesse on-screen are mentioned but it isn’t until he starts to really delve in deep and blame his lack of concentration on his chronic alcoholism that we start to see an actor on the verge of a serious breakdown. Taking into account that the industry is not what it used to be and the changes in which he is facing as an actor it was only a matter of time before this happened.
“I f***ing hate whiskey sours!!”
The use of quick cuts and close-ups in this segment puts emphasis on the total contempt and utter disgust he has with himself (at that moment in time) not only as an actor but as an alcoholic. This results in a comedic narrative structure. This topic is in no way funny. But, the editing, script, and the way in which DiCaprio portrays this moment ends up being totally hilarious – think of this as in a similar way perhaps Scorsese directed that catatonic drug scene between Jordan and Donnie in The Wolf of Wall Street.
This is one of my favourite scenes in the movie by far. In fact, the movie would have been elevated to another level had there been more of this sort of screenplay. It would have been absolute screen gold. Be sure to look up the clip if you haven’t seen the film
WRAP IT UP
Cinematically, this film is stunning. The script structure and screen-play start off slow but then fires in with bursts of dialogue that will blow you away! Many a chuckle was heard from where I was sitting. Intentional? Yes, of course, it is. This is Tarantino. This cinematic masterclass breathes life back into the motion picture landscape of the sixties projected through Tarantino’s creative flair which, ultimately transports the audience back in time but in an alternate reality of events.
It seems strange to like a film that has no obvious plot. Some people have blasted this movie for being too hyped up or didn’t like it because of it’s lack of story/ending. I happen to resonate with this film for so many reasons, however: 1) I am a Tarantino fan, 2) I am a film buff, 3) I LOVE anything remotely linked to Hollywood or it’s history, 4) I happen to be a huge fan of the main cast and 5) I genuinely liked the film.
I was toiling back and forth with the rating for this movie but I have decided to give it a 4.5/5. I did feel that there could have been scenes cut or shortened and perhaps even some more action sequences. That being said, it is still an epically perfect piece of cinema. I figure this will hang proudly as a Tarantino classic and will be watched over and over just like much of his other cinematic endeavours.
I would say, watch this movie if you happen to have a curiosity. Don’t expect to be actionable entertained for 3 hours rather, think of this film as a lesson. A masterclass in the art of filmmaking as a whole and relish in the wonders of the past.
IMAGES COPYRIGHT – Sony, IMDb