Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time offers up subtle satire of Hollywood

The best part of seeing a Quentin Tarantino movie is experiencing the story unfold before you. Every scene is carefully and intentionally placed. Each physical element in view, whether silverware or magazines, is chosen to help the audience interpret the context. Every detail is relevant to the action, dialogue, and characters. Each word of dialogue is scripted for meaning and delivery. Tarantino’s craftsmanship is evident in every frame and scene in his newest film, Once Upon A Time in Hollywood. This helps because audiences will need a little patience as the story is pieced together over its two-hour and forty-minute running time. 

Once Upon A Time is also different. The movie features many of the elements that have made Tarantino an auteur director and filmmaker. Unfortunately, identifying them in a review would likely create too many spoilers. They, however, are used creatively enough: Audiences may find the experience similar to going into an art gallery expecting to see impressionist art but coming out thinking the artist was a realist. It’s a movie that will sit with you (in a good way) well after the closing credits. (The movie, not surprisingly, is rated R.)

The story is set in 1969 Los Angeles in the months leading up to the Manson murders in 1969. (Note: This is not a spoiler). Excellent performances by Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, and Margaret Qualley in a notable supporting role are included in an ensemble cast that covers players in Los Angeles movie industry. Pop culture references abound, also not surprisingly for a Tarantino film, and artfully woven into the action and dialogue. While the “Manson Family” figures prominently in the story, the film’s ending has a signature climax that challenges and provokes. 

Some have suggested Once Upon a Time is a “love letter” to Hollywood. I think a subtle and nuanced satire with its implicit commentary on the film industry would be more accurate. Overall, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is well worth watching and will probably show up on lists for major industry awards in 2020.

Read this movie review on my Facebook page @themovieswithSam by clicking here.

Read all my movie reviews on Facebook (@themovieswithsam) by clicking here.

Author: SR Staley
SR Staley has one more than 11 literary awards for his fiction and nonfiction writing. He is on the full-time faculty of the College and Social Sciences and Public Policy at Florida State University as well as a film critic and research fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland, California. His award-winning Pirate of Panther Bay series (syppublishing.com) has won awards in historical fiction, mainstream & literary fiction, young adult fiction, and reached the finals in women's fiction. His most recent book is "The Beatles and Economics: Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and the Making of a Cultural Revolution" due out in April 2020 (Routledge).