Once Upon a Time in Hollywood made a splashy debut at the 2019 Cannes film festival (watch the trailer here), but what did the critics think of the movie?
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood follows struggling actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), as they attempt to make a name for themselves in the film industry, but just at the same time as Hollywood is about to be changed forever by the arrival of the sinister cult known as the Manson family.
Here is a sampling of some of the initial reactions:
“There are some shocking happenings from a gore standpoint although compared to other Tarantino fare it’s tempered a bit. But it also elicits a reaction no other Tarantino film has to date.”
“There’s an unconditional love for the movie and TV business in all its aspects. The backlot, the parties, the making of films: we get chunks of scenes played out, as well as trailers a la Grindhouse. There’s humor: this is perhaps Tarantino’s funniest film, with Pitt bringing a lot of the guffaws. And yes, there’s violence: dark, extreme and frequently (“I shouldn’t be laughing at this”) funny. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is bold, beautiful and brutal. It’s Tarantino’s best film since Kill Bill, perhaps even since Pulp Fiction, and we all know what happened when that came to Cannes.”
“Because it replays cinematic styles and revisits the long-gone world of the small screen, there might be a tendency to dismiss Once Upon A Time….in Hollywood‘s pastiche. But this is more than that: it’s love. A quarter of a century to the day since Quentin Tarantino premiered Pulp Fiction at Cannes, this is a new departure for the film-maker. And the warmth is welcome.”
Quite simply, I just defy anyone with red blood in their veins not to respond to the crazy bravura of Tarantino’s film-making, not to be bounced around the auditorium at the moment-by-moment enjoyment that this movie delivers – and conversely, of course, to shudder at the horror and cruelty and its hallucinatory aftermath.
In Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, Tarantino re-creates the Hollywood of 50 years ago with a fantastically detailed and almost swoony time-machine precision, and it’s not just about the marquees and the billboards featuring end-of-the-studio-system-era corn like “Three in an Attic,” or all the juicy Top 40 chestnuts on the soundtrack. The movie captures how Hollywood, by 1969, was a head-spinningly layered place.”
And so the film rambles along intriguingly and mostly non-violently, less the fairy tale promised by the title than a bundle of short stories, none of which give any obvious hints as to where they might end up. Where it does end is undoubtedly the big talking point, and one that would be insane to broach three months before its UK release – though it’s safe to say Rick and Cliff become embroiled to an extent, while the murders themselves must be the single most shocking sequence in Tarantino’s filmography for a number of reasons: one moment made me groan “oh no” out loud.
Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Margot Robbie, along with director Quentin Tarantino, hit the red carpet for the Once Upon a Time in America premiere at Cannes, some of those photo highlights are below.