Critics Love ‘Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood’ – but Saying Why Might Spoil Everything

It’s Quentin Tarantino at his most sublime, say critics

Leonardo DiCaprio Once Upon a Time In Hollywood
Photograph by Andrew Cooper/©2019 Sony Pictures Entertainment.

One might expect a spoiler warning for “Avengers: Endgame” or “Game of Thrones,” but not so much for Quentin Tarantino’s latest film, “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.” And for critics, at Cannes earlier this year and this week as the film comes out, that makes writing reviews a little tricky.

But for devout fans of the “Pulp Fiction” filmmaker, this ninth movie isn’t going to disappoint. While critics noted that Tarantino can get a little too indulgent with his nostalgic, almost rose-tinted depiction of 1969 Hollywood and nods to cinematic history, it’s balanced with moments that take a hard look at Tinseltown’s tendency to mythologize and at the effects that the societal changes that took place at the end of the ’60s had on the world.

And at the end of it all is a finale that Tarantino is hoping critics who got an advanced look will protect. But based on reviews, it’s one that is alternately chilling, moving, and as one would expect with this director, very bloody.

“It’s a work that generates much of its power from surprise, and how it’s willing to diverge from the historical record in ways some may find daring and others disturbing,” said SlashFilm’s Peter Sciretta.

Blending fact with fiction, “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” follows Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth, played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, in their first performance together. Rick is a cowboy actor being left behind by Hollywood, and Cliff is an easygoing stuntman with a dark past. The two go looking for one last big role together, but end up getting entwined in Hollywood infamy with the murder of Rick’s neighbor, Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie).

The film will be released by Columbia Pictures on July 29. Check out more reviews below.

Pete Hammond, “Deadline”

Set in 1969 at the intersection of a changing film industry and social upheaval, Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film is the one it seems that is closest to its director, and it also happens to be his best.

Peter Travers, “Rolling Stone”

You might not remember everything the way that Quentin Tarantino remembers it in Once Upon a Time in . . . Hollywood. But you won’t forget a second of what the writer-director puts onscreen. It’s Tarantino’s ninth film, and he claims it will be his next-to-last. If so, he’s going out with a bang.

Leah Greenblatt, “EW”

The 56-year-old’s ninth — and so he promises, penultimate — film feels like the sprawling confluence of every last thread in his creative DNA: lock-jawed Westerns, splattery exploitation, sex, sideburns, Nazis, nihilists, femmes who may or may not be fatales. It’s shaggy and self-indulgent and almost scandalously long; and in nearly every moment, pretty glorious.

Michael Rougeau, “Gamespot”

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is much more than a retelling of certain events–in fact, it fails spectacularly at being that. But it succeeds immensely at being a fairy tale–a recounting of a time and place, an attempt to capture the essence of Hollywood’s golden age, one that came to an end in 1969–but, maybe for Tarantino, never really ended at all.

Jordan Ruimy, “World of Reel”

Unlike ‘Django,’ ‘Basterds,’ and, really, any of Tararntino’s movies post-‘Jackie Brown,’ the film takes its time to build up atmosphere and character. This may very well irk some of his newer fans, but for all of us who fell for QT’s cinema back in the 1990s, it is an absolutely welcome, back-to-the-basics structure, juggling a mosaic of characters and story-lines and eventually stringing them together for a relentlessly playful and touching finale.

Peter Bradshaw, “The Guardian”

“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.”

Charles Bramesco, “Birth.Movies.Death.”

“While Tarantino insists he’s got one more in him, there’s a part of me that believes he’d die before he’d willingly put down his camera, and the parties emerging victorious in the delirious grand finale support this much. If he’s getting ready to pack it in, though, this is how you do it. Indulge every nostalgist whim, stare at the feet, get everything you can while you can.”

Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair

“[DiCaprio and Pitt] have a beguiling chemistry. Rick and Cliff almost play as lovers–so tuned into each other, so happy just to be hangin’ out. Cliff consoles Rick’s career insecurities, while Rick takes Cliff along on his various TV shoots and other adventures. They’re a pair of pals content inside their own hazy bubble, Los Angeles sprawling around them like a hug. As they gambol along, they remain witlessly, blissfully unaware of the darkness creeping up toward them, until it’s staring them right in the face.”