Unsurprisingly, Quentin Tarantino’s latest film Once Upon A Time In Hollywood has sparked controversy and divided critics and audiences alike, so let's explain why that is. Just four years after The Hateful Eight was released, Tarantino came back with another film that proved to be very different from the rest, but that hasn’t been an obstacle for it to dominate the box office.
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is, just like Inglorious Basterds, a reimagining of real-life events in a very Tarantino way. It’s set in Los Angeles, 1969, and follows actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double and friend Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) as they do what they can to survive during the decline of Hollywood’s Golden Age. The film includes portrayals of real-life actors and filmmakers throughout the story, most notably Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and Bruce Lee (Mike Moh). Despite its linear storyline, various pop culture references, and the appearances of some recurrent Tarantino collaborators, viewers haven’t received Once Upon A Time In Hollywood as well as many expected.
As mentioned above, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood has a linear storyline, contrary to other Tarantino works, and uses flashbacks and other resources to fully immerse the audience into Rick and Cliff’s lives. Tarantino’s typical level of violence is absent until the third act of the film, and that’s something that hasn’t appealed to most viewers – that, and Margot Robbie’s lack of screen time, dialogue, and overall development. Tarantino himself has said she wasn’t intended to be a “Tarantino character” like other women have been in his past films, and even admitted she doesn’t have any plot functions directly, which feels like a waste for a talent like Robbie. Sharon Tate wasn’t even a “character” as she doesn’t bring anything to the story, but more of a concept, which was a big disappointment to many viewers.
Another detail that viewers have pointed out is the violence against women in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, as seen in the climactic scene where Cliff Booth takes down Manson’s minions, two of which were women. Although his actions can be justified by the fact that they were there to kill – first Tate and company, although they changed their mind and went for Dalton instead – some think it wasn’t. That along with Cliff’s mystery about his wife’s death have made some viewers dislike the film. Aside from all this, some fans just don’t feel this is a “Tarantino film”, as he strayed from his usual style, and even found it to be sluggish at times.
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood will be a different experience for every viewer depending on many factors, such as their knowledge on pop culture figures from the 1950s-1960s (as the film is packed with these), their excitement for it as a Tarantino film, and their expectations of the portrayal of real-life events. In the end, it wouldn’t be a Tarantino story if it wasn’t met with controversy, and with time fans will ultimately decide if it’s one of his best works or if it’s one of those that will become forgettable.