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Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

August 9, 2019

Lights, Camera, Murder | A Look into Tarantino’s Newest Film

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Hollywood likes to make movies that glorify itself. Sunset Boulevard (1950), The Artist (2011) and La La Land (2016) are all prime examples. But Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood branches off a bit from the cliche plot of the struggling actor who can’t keep up with the changing times. Although Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) does worry about making a name for himself and moving on from playing the villain in television Westerns, the story is much more than his personal predicament. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is primarily a story based on the 1969 Manson murders. Charles Manson’s commune was situated on a former Western movie ranch, and the Manson murders took the life of actress Sharon Tate. Viewers should definitely look up the Manson murders BEFORE seeing the movie to appreciate the plot.

The film is rather historically accurate, although there are a few artistic twists that let Leonardo Dicaprio and Brad Pitt shine. Brad Pitt plays the sidekick, Cliff Booth — a fearless stuntman and reckless driver. Together, DiCaprio and Pitt are inseparable and comical. DiCaprio is definitely deserving of an Oscar for his performance in this film. Not only did he slay the part of an insecure and sensitive Western actor Rick Dalton, but he also portrayed all of Dalton’s characters flawlessly. He switches from the villain to an actor, to a failure, to a hero, to a best friend.

The soundtrack was also well-curated. Songs like “Mr. Sun, Mr. Moon” (1969), “Mrs. Robinson” (1968)  and “Son of a Lovin’ Man” (1970) make me want to drive around in Cliff’s sky blue 1960 Karmann Ghia roadster.

However, the main issue with the film is its dawdling two-hour-and-45-minute-run-time. With no major sub-conflicts and lack of constant action, the movie is sometimes slow and boring. The movie also lacks a central problem to keep viewers in suspense — a red flag for a major feature film. I really wished I could have click the fast-forward button through some unnecessary scenes. Moreover, an offscreen narrator barges in partway through the film to explain the scenes like a reality show. Why did Tarantino feel the need for an offscreen narrator? Were the actors not skilled enough to express the story? Was it a creative outlet? I don’t know, but it was hardly necessary.

If only the editors were more generous, this movie would have been thoroughly enjoyable. This is the only movie where I broke into maniacal laughter at hilarious killing scenes and enjoyed every bit of the dark comedy alongside the gritty vs. glamorous ’60s Los Angeles settings.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a must-see, as long as you have three hours to watch.

 

Ariadna Lubinus is a sophomore in the College of Engineering. She can be reached at aml386@cornell.edu.