Quentin Tarantino’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD is set in 1969. It stars Brad Pitt as Cliff Booth, the brawny stunt double of Rick Dalton, a former western TV star played by DiCaprio. Rick is depressed because he no longer plays the good guy since Hollywood career is ending. Cliff has an encounter with the Manson Family when he checks on the safety of the owner of the ranch where the cult lives. His visit sparks a change in the plans of the cult members Charlie Manson sends to murder actress Sharon Tate and her houseguests.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD has some captivating scenes. However, the plot meanders too much with scenes that don’t seem to lead anywhere, and the movie’s filled with abundant foul language and brutal, extreme violence, especially at the end. There’s some substance abuse and some lewd dialogue. That said, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD makes the evil Manson Family the bad guys and acknowledges the strong bond of friendship between the actor and his stunt double. Media-wise moviegoers will find the movie excessive.
(B, PaPa, Fe, LLL, VVV, S, N, AA, DD, M):
Dominant Worldview and Other Worldview Content/Elements:
Light moral worldview extols friendship, portrays the Manson Family as evil, and has an uplifting wistful feeling for the Family’s most famous victim, Sharon Tate, but, otherwise, the heroes in the movie have a pagan lifestyle, and the movie advocates an extreme level of brutality when it comes to handling evil people, plus a precocious child star has a feminist worldview where she believes females should not be called actresses but actors;
At least 147 obscenities (including many “f” words), 23 strong profanities (mostly GD with a few JC profanities), one or two light profanities, and a couple obscene gestures;
Extreme violence mixed with some strong violence includes three people intent on harming others are beaten to a bloody pulp with their faces smashed in by various means, a man’s hip is shown with a knife sticking in it, dog viciously attacks several evil intruders, man uses a flame thrower to burn an injured woman who’s crazily firing off a gun, a fictional movie shows an Allied soldier using a flame thrower to burn a small group of Nazis to a crisp, Bruce Lee has an agreed-upon fight on the set of THE GREEN HORNET with a stuntman where he kicks the stuntman and causes him to fall to the ground, the stuntman then throws Bruce Lee into a car when Bruce tries to kick him again, woman interrupts their the third round of the fight and kicks the stunt man off the set, scenes from a fictional western TV program show the bounty-hunting hero shooting a bunch of gunfighters down, man punches another man in the face multiple times to force him to fix the tire on his car after the man slashes the tire with his knife, and a scene in a TV program shows a man shooting and killing two military guards driving a vehicle;
No sex scenes but one young female leader in the Manson Family crudely says how she had relations that morning with her landlord who’s a man in his eighties, a visit to a party at the Playboy Mansion shows people at the party kissing and dancing, a minor character says he thinks a man is hanging around the famous wife of a famous man because he believes the famous man will eventually make a big mistake and ruin his marriage, and an underage girl offers oral sex to an older man who’s giving her a ride, but he refuses when she lies to him and says she’s 18;
Upper male nudity ;
Frequent alcohol use and some drunkenness, especially by one of the lead characters who has a drinking problem;
Smoking and/or Drug Use and Abuse:
Cigarette smoking, brief cigar smoking, brief marijuana use shown, and man smokes a cigarette laced with LSD, called acid in the movie; and,
Shoplifting, bragging, anger, and vandalism.
Quentin Tarantino’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD tells the story of a Hollywood stunt double and his long-time actor friend, a TV western star who’s been consigned to playing villain roles, and their eventual encounter with elements of the Manson Family, who in real life went on a killing spree in 1969. Despite some captivating scenes, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD meanders too much when it comes to plot and has abundant foul language, some substance abuse, and extreme violence, especially at the end, though it clearly makes the evil Manson Family the bad guys and acknowledges the strong bond of friendship between the actor and his stunt double. The movie’s violence and crude dialogue are excessive and rather gratuitous.
Set in 1969, the movie stars Brad Pitt as Cliff Booth, who is the stunt double to former TV western star Rick Dalton, played by Leonardo DiCaprio. Rick has a drinking problem and has been relegated to playing villain roles on TV. Meanwhile, Cliff is now working as Rick’s driver, because Rick’s driver’s license has been suspended.
In a meeting at a famous Hollywood restaurant, an agent tells Rick that, by being relegated to villain roles, his career will soon dwindle down to nothing. The agent offers to get Rick some hero roles making spaghetti westerns in Italy.
Outside the restaurant, the agent’s assessment drives Rick to tears, but Cliff encourages his friend to keep his hopes high. Maybe working in Italy will be a good thing, he says. Rick, however, is not convinced.
On the way back to drop Rick at his house, Cliff catches the eye of a pretty young black-haired hippie girl walking with a group of other young hippies who’ve just shoplifted some food. At Rick’s house, Rick is thrilled when he catches a glimpse of Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski, his new next door neighbors. Polanski is the hottest director in town, Rick reminds Cliff, adding that Polanski’s fresh off the success of the movie ROSEMARY’S BABY.
The next day, Rick is scheduled to play the villain in a pilot for a new TV western. He has a conversation with the new star of the show and converses with the 8-year-old precocious child actress who’s playing a girl that Rick’s character kidnaps and holds for ransom. The child inspires Rick to give a great performance while shooting the pilot.
Meanwhile, Cliff eventually gives the black-haired girl a ride back to the rundown Spahn Movie Ranch where Cliff and Rick used to make BOUNTY LAW, their TV series. Cliff becomes suspicious about the whereabouts of the old landlord, whom he used to know. He investigates and finds the old man has gone blind but enjoys having the involvement of the Manson girls, because of the sexual favors they grant him. However, he beats up one of the young men, who slashed one of his car’s tires.
Cliff’s visit to the ranch eventually sparks a change in the plans of the cult members Charlie Manson sends to murder actress Sharon Tate and her houseguests.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD is laced with a series of captivating scenes. Rick’s conversation with the child actress is funny and even touching. Eventually, her work ethic inspires him to give a great performance in a key scene in the TV pilot, where he holds the girl’s character hostage. Another good scene is Cliff’s visit to Spawn Ranch where the Manson Family lives. The scene is filled with tension and suspense as Cliff investigates what’s happened to the elderly owner of the ranch. Hollywood Director Howard Hawks once said that, when he made movies, the most he expected to achieve, besides entertaining the audience, was to produce two or three great scenes. This doesn’t work, however, in ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD, because the plot keeps meandering. For example, although at the end it becomes clear the scene has a purpose to it, a lengthy scene involves Cliff slowly feeding his Pitbull dog two large cans of gooey dog food. The dog waits anxiously until Cliff gives him the signal to eat.
As usual, Quentin Tarantino’s movie contains abundant foul language, including many strong profanities. There are also a couple lines featuring lewd dialogue. The star actor in the movie struggles with a drinking problem. Also, in a crucial scene, the stunt double decides to smoke a cigarette laced with LSD that he bought off a hippie girl on the street. Finally, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD has several scenes of extreme violence. The violence at the end is especially over the top and excessive.
Clearly, though, the Manson Family is depicted as the evil bunch that they were in real life. Also, the movie extols the strong friendship between the star actor and his stunt double. “You’re a really good friend,” the actor tells his stunt double at the end.
Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio give the best performances in the movie. Margo Robbie also gives an endearing performance as the happy Sharon Tate, who’s enjoying her newfound stardom before her brutal run-in with the Manson Family. The other performances range from good to just okay. Despite its good intentions, though, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD is underwhelming.
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