Once Upon a Review in Telluride

Ryder Wells, Staff Writer

HOLLYWOOD– Writer and Director Quentin Tarantino’s ninth and newest film “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” captures a significant timepiece in history and twists it into a fairytale-like comedy-drama. The movie stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Margot Robbie as the three leads. DiCaprio and Pitt have both previously starred in Tarantino films, “Django Unchained” (2012) and “Inglorious Basterds” (2009) respectively, carrying on Tarantino’s trend of reusing actors. This review will touch on the movie plot and soundtrack. Some spoilers ahead, as I will be doing a condensed plot summary. However, I will avoid major plot details.

Sony Pictures Movie Poster

The film’s main characters are Rick Dalton (DiCaprio), a washed-up actor, Cliff Booth (Pitt), his stunt double, chauffeur, handyman and best friend, and the real world actress Sharon Tate (Robbie). The plot starts in early 1969, where Rick Dalton, having overall failed at the jump of TV to Film, meets with Marvin Schwarz (Al Pacino), a producer who helps Dalton realize he is doomed to play bad guys on guest appearances in other TV shows until he fades into obscurity. Schwarz suggests he can star in Italian films, to help keep his name up, an idea that Dalton strongly dislikes. We learn that Cliff has become a general handyman and go-fer for Dalton. The next day the movie splits into an A, B, and C plot each following one of the main characters.

The A plot follows Dalton on the set of “Lancer” where he struggles with his current lifestyle.

The B plot follows Cliff as he takes a young girl out to The Spahn Movie Ranch, where cowboy shows and movies used to be shot and a place he was once familiar with, but is now the residence of the Manson Family.

The C plot follows Sharon Tate into town. The plots end at the end of the day, with Tate returning home and Cliff and Dalton meeting back up. The movie then takes a six-month jump, while Dalton is in Europe making Italian movies, to August 8th, 1969 on the night of the Manson Murders. This, of course, is a condensed plot summary, and excludes the ending because I recommend people see it! It’s a great story-driven movie chock full of passion. Quentin Tarantino serves the purpose of the film well                                           

As any movie set in the 60s does, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” features a great soundtrack. Most of the songs were being listened to by the characters, adding to the realism. For example, instead of just having music over a driving scene, the music comes from the radio while Cliff and Dalton drive in the car. The soundtrack includes songs such as Simon and Garfunkel’s Mrs. Robinson (1968), Roy Head and the Traits’ Treat Her Right (1965), Los Bravos’ Bring A Little Lovin’ (1968) along with many other songs from the decade. The style and song choice help establish the overall setting and realistically show the characters, which is a show of good directing and filmmaking. 

Overall “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is a very well done, dialogue-driven film. It is slower-paced compared to many big movies these days like “Avengers: Endgame,” which may deter certain audiences, but this objectively doesn’t make the movie worse. It still keeps the classic traits of Tarantino movies, especially at the end. The movie captures the time in which it takes place and successfully mixes real and fictional people in a fairytale-esque story worth of your watch.