Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is visually striking, but falls short compared to Tarantino’s earlier films

The renowned director’s latest film is well-acted and beautiful, but its lack of a strong storyline is its downfall

At times, the film feels as though it’s just Tarantino showcasing his talents as a director. Image courtesy of Sony Pictures.

By: Kaila Bhullar, SFU Student

As Quentin Tarantino’s ninth and most recent film, it came as no surprise that Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was executed beautifully and filled with striking cinematography. When it came to overall flow and plot, however, the film strayed from established formats regarding linear storylines, resulting in an atypical viewing experience.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is strictly plot driven, as it follows a loosely connected stream of character occurrences. It feels almost as if you’re watching an ad or a music video, in that it lacks a strong sense of storyline or conflict. At times, the film feels as though it’s just Tarantino showcasing his talents as a director, as opposed to focusing on tying together the different character arcs or conveying a message. Further, knowing that Tarantino has, in the past, made films that depicted raw human emotion (like revenge, anger, or lust) very accurately, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood felt a little lacking in the overall character feel.

Despite this, the soundtrack, as always in a Tarantino film, was as good as ever, and the performances given by the main characters were spectacular. There were also many action-packed and riveting scenes, but a lot of them in my opinion felt as though they took an uncomfortably long time to build up to. The film demonstrates many of Tarantino’s strong suits in terms of writing and directing, but it also shows us that in some cases, directors may not want to get too experimental in their techniques.

Overall, if you’re looking for a film that is visually beautiful and enjoyable to watch, in the same way that watching something like a music video can be, then you’ll probably enjoy Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. On the other hand, if you’re intending to watch a film that follows a distinct sequence of events and the standard plot-driven progression that a movie typically does, then you may not enjoy this one.

I watched Once Upon a Time in Hollywood twice, and I feel as though I may need to see it again to perhaps pick up on some subtle details and hidden references. The film is expansive and seems as though it might require deeper examination, though that may just be my bias in the matter, since Tarantino is among my favourites as a director. Decide for yourself! I definitely think it’s worth watching at least once. 

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