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Reviews for July 26th, 2019

Once Upon a Hollywood

Directed by Quentin Tarantino

      Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), an actor famous for starring in TV westerns, struggles to come to terms with the fact that he's now a washed-up actor. His stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), drives him around Los Angeles, and also grapples with the same harsh truth. He lives right next door to a rising Hollywood star, Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), and her husband Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha).

      Besides its star-studded cast of big names in Hollywood, the lively soundtrack, and the stylish cinematography and set design filled with nostalgia for 1960s Hollywood, Once Upon a Hollywood has nothing else to offer under its sleeve. Al Pacino shows up briefly as an agent and Kurt Russell as a stunt coordinator. Oh, and Bruce Dern also shows up briefly, too. Unfortunately, the screenplay by writer/director Quentin Tarantino leaves a lot to be desired because it's shallow, meandering, repetitive and only sporadically fun and witty until the last 30 minutes, but by then it's too little, too late. If you were to watch the film on DVD or Blu-ray, you could easily fast forward the first 2 hours and 10 minutes and not miss anything essential. Star power and charisma are not nearly enough to keep the film afloat.

      Rick and Cliff are both interesting characters who never fully come to life. There are a few scenes with them that shed light into their heart, mind and soul, both those moments are ephemeral. Their innate struggles go underexplored thereby wasting Pitt and overstay their welcome making it seem as though film editor Fred Raskin fell asleep in the editing room. There's nothing inherently wrong with slow-burning cinema with lingering shots that show that the filmmaker trusts the audience's patience. Tarantino and Raskin overdo the slow burn which could work if the film were a parody of slow-burning films, but, alas there's nothing funny about it. It just feels like they're trying too hard to be artsy. The first hour and a half of One Upon a Hollywood is a meandering and dull except for one scene with a scene-stealing, precocious young actress, Trudi (Julia Butters), and another with Cliff fighting Bruce Lee, although both of those scenes last way too long.

      Lillian Gish once complained that modern movies have too many close-ups of people's feet. If she were still alive today, she'd probably dislike Once Upon a Hollywood because Tarantino includes many random shots of feet---dirty feet, mind you---which serves no purpose even the first time around and quickly becomes tedious and silly the second time around. If Tarantino had something insightful to say about Hollywood or actors or humanity instead of wasting the audience's time with shots of people's feet and other shallow, dull and boring scenes then the film would be much more powerful, provocative, haunting and even poignant. However, Tarantino isn't known for making poignant films; he's known for pushing the envelope with witty dialogue, profanity and gory action scenes which tend to be a guilty pleasure---even the overrated Pulp Fiction had a few guilty pleasures. For a far more entertaining, lean, intelligent, heartfelt and suspenseful film about actors and Hollywood see the underrated film Axis. Then, of course, there's also the classic Hollywood satire, The Player. Please be sure to stay through end credits for a mid-credits scene if you haven't fallen asleep or walked out by then.

Number of times I checked my watch: 6
Released by Columbia Pictures.
Opens nationwide.
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