Once Upon an Enjoyable Time in Hollywood

Leonardo DiCaprio is sitting in a floating lawn chair in a pool as he smokes a cigarette, listens to a tape player, and drinks from a large stein.
Leonardo DiCaprio is sitting in a floating lawn chair in a pool as he smokes a cigarette, listens to a tape player, and drinks from a large stein.

Author: Joel Dull

And then there was one. Tarantino has said that he is only going to make 10 films. By all accounts that appears like it will be the case, especially considering how they are marketing Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood as “the ninth film from the mind of Quentin Tarantino” or some other form of the phrase. Regardless, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood is an enjoyable film both within the greater cannon of Tarantino’s work as well as a creation in and of itself.

Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood had everything that you could possibly expect, a unique narrative structure that ties together at the end, hyper violence, and so much smoking that you could practically smell the cigarettes in the theatre, and quite a few feet (I would say an exceptional amount even for Tarantino). I mention that last one not merely because Tarantino’s obsession with the stinky extremities is a bizarre recurrence within his films, it actually brings up my first issue with the film. The occurrence of the feet was usually in relation to a group of hippies that populated the film, and although a few of them end up playing a key part in the story, for the majority of the film, their existence felt justified only for the purpose of having a group of people (that are inherently more barefoot than everybody else) populate the screen with their feet.

Leonardo DiCaprio is sitting in a floating lawn chair in a pool as he smokes a cigarette, listens to a tape player, and drinks from a large stein.
Photo Courtesy of Andrew Cooper

Okay I think that’s all I have to say about feet. Anyways, the rest of the movie was truly a lot of fun. The part that brought me the most joy however was not a specific scene per se; rather, it was the understanding of how much fun this movie must have been to make. I could truly feel Tarantino laughing at his own jokes and smiling through each scene, and that feeling emanated through the whole cast and production team. The actors appeared to be having genuine fun with their characters, the editors must have enjoyed creating the filters for the western tv scenes, and the cinematographers added to the style as well. The whole movie felt like Tarantino playing in a sandbox with all of his friends and I absolutely loved it. It was a movie-a**-movie that was pure fun.

I do have one other issue with the film, though. By Tarantino’s standards it was not a long film. Yet, there were several instances where the story really dragged and it felt like I was sitting for 2 hours and 45 minutes, and that was only 2 hours into the movie that I felt that. Within the nearly two hours the story also became confusing. The story felt like it was coming to a clear and concise end when all of the sudden there was a brief, tangential chapter that expanded the story of Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitts’ characters without adding any real meaning to their arcs as a whole. Then, the movie turned back in the direction it was heading 20 minutes earlier and made those past 20 minutes feel unnecessary, and throughout the film there were vignettes that felt a lot like filler. The only reason I am semi-okay with the filler is again because of how much fun it was. The primary scenes that come to mind as “filler” are the scenes involving Margot Robbie’s character. There is a serious argument to be made that she deserved more screen time and more dialogue, but the theme of her character was a free spirited, ever dancing, ball of fun. Those scenes of her living her best life were some of my favorites.

The film was fascinating like all of Tarantino’s work is, and there is a lot to unpack within the film. Is it his best work? No, but it is certainly worth the watch. Even if you aren’t a die-hard Tarantino fan, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood is a unique story that is a great movie to just strap in for the ride and see where it goes.

Joel Dull | There were just so many feet…| KXSU Head Arts Reporter

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