Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: What critics are saying about Quentin Tarantino's new film

Critics praise Tarantino's rendition of late-sixties Hollywood and his tale on real-life events

Clémence Michallon
Wednesday 22 May 2019 07:16
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood trailer

The first reviews are in for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – and critics have been charmed by Quentin Tarantino's new film.

Set in the summer of 1969, around the time of the Manson family murders, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood stars Leonardo DiCaprio as struggling actor Rick Dalton and Brad Pitt as his stunt double Cliff Booth. Margot Robbie plays Sharon Tate, one of the victims of the murders on 8-9 August.

Overall, critics praised Tarantino's depiction of Hollywood in the late sixties, as well as his take on real-life events. Some were slightly more reserved about the movie as a whole, though they avoided divulging too much about its plot – in accordance with the wishes of Tarantino himself, who asked audiences to refrain from sharing spoilers ahead of the film's premiere in Cannes.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood opens in cinemas on 26 July, 2019.

Here is what critics have said so far (mild spoiler warning):

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. (Peter Bradshaw) 5/5

The Telegraph


And so the film rambles along intriguingly and mostly non-violently, less the fairy tale promised by the title than a bundle of short stories, none of which give any obvious hints as to where they might end up. Where it does end is undoubtedly the big talking point, and one that would be insane to broach three months before its UK release – though it’s safe to say Rick and Cliff become embroiled to an extent, while the murders themselves must be the single most shocking sequence in Tarantino’s filmography for a number of reasons: one moment made me groan “oh no” out loud. (Robbie Collin)



We’re not going to pretend that Once Upon isn’t another Tarantino film that plays with revisionist history. The fact Rick lives right next to Polanski and Tate gives that away very early on. There is a difference this time around. Unlike Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained, what happens in Once Upon isn’t in the context of revenge or moral justice. Born in 1963, Tarantino spent much of his childhood in Los Angeles county. He was only six on that fateful night, but he knows how it tainted how many saw Hollywood from that point forward. The faux innocence meticulously managed by the big studio machines had been fading for a decade, but it was truly lost that night. And, if you didn’t know already, Tarantino loves Hollywood which is why this film is the ultimate love letter from him. (Gregory Ellwood)



You can say, as many will, that it’s only a movie. But for much of “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood,” Tarantino brilliantly uses the presence of the Manson girls to suggest something in the Hollywood cosmos that’s profound in its diabolical bad vibes. And the way the movie resolves all this feels, frankly, too easy. By the end, Tarantino has done something that’s quintessentially Tarantino, but that no longer feels even vaguely revolutionary. He has reduced the story he’s telling to pulp. (Owen Gleiberman)

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Once Upon a Time is an unapologetic fantasy of the kind Tarantino has relished in his recent spate of projects, and this one seems to exist in dialogue with its forebears. There’s even a late monologue from one of the Manson killers about the fetishization of murder and violence in entertainment that registers as Tarantino reducing his most conservative critics to the worst possible caricatures. From there, the filmmaker settles into business as usual. There’s no point in spoiling the specifics, but needless to say, the movie careens into a form of historical revisionism familiar from Tarantino’s other recent work. After a movie built around a surprising degree of restraint, he can’t help but let himself go. As Once Upon a Time in Hollywood makes clear, it’s hard to keep a good showman down. (Eric Kohn)

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