Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood

Jul 29, 2019

A must-see romance by arguably the most celebrated writer/director of our time.

Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood

Grade: A-

Director: Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction)

Screenplay: Tarantino

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant), Brad Pitt (Thelma & Louise)

Rating: R

Runtime: 2 hr 41 min

By: John DeSando

Twenty-five years after Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino is still getting our attention. Today in Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood he takes a calmer, less sardonic view of the passage of cultural time from The Graduate, Easy Rider, Midnight Cowboy, and other great ‘60’s classics and the future ‘70’s greats like Taxi Driver, Star Wars, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The Hollywood mojo was impressive in those decades, and he loves it all.

By focusing on almost has-been TV star Rick (Leo DiCaprio) and his stunt double Cliff (Brad Pitt), writer/director Tarantino can be wistful about a Hollywood that has reached its peak in the 60’s and hard-nosed about the wars like Vietnam and murders like Manson’s to temper the almost giddy love of movies divorced from reality. Never is he sappy or sarcastic, just mindful throughout of the passage of time and innocence.

In the 2 hrs 41 min, however, he doesn’t cut scenes when he should such as the re-creation of old TV show segments just too long and dull to be anything but slow. However, when the two stars are together the magic of old Hollywood is present, even if they can’t compete with Newman and Redford.

Never one to rely just on meticulous re-creation of an era (his details are marvelous), Tarantino plays with the lost innocence motif, even with war raging on TV and producers assassinating the careers of stars.  Still, this is a milder, gentler Tarantino, unlike Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, for instance. As a loving take on violence and loss, he allows himself to honor the movies, from when he was a nerdy, video geek to a formidable auteur.

See this romantic rendition of the sixties by arguably one of the best artists in the world. At the least it’s entertaining, at the best it blends our benign nostalgia with the evanescence of fame, beauty, and peace.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at