News

Once Upon A Time in Hollywood First Reviews: Quentin Tarantino's Violent and Personal Ode to the Summer of '69

The very first reviews from Cannes say Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is the movie Quentin Tarantino was born to make.

by | May 21, 2019 | Comments

Quentin Tarantino sent out a public message to critics and other attendees of the Cannes Film Festival not to spoil his new movie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and for the most part the first reviews are keeping mum on details. What they are saying, though, is that this Tinseltown fairy tale is another enjoyable but also potentially controversial movie from the director of Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds. Following a lengthy standing ovation, the mixed reactions poured in celebrating the pairing of Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, the re-creation of 1969 Hollywood (the town and the pop culture) and hints of its unspeakable final act.

Here’s what critics are saying about Once Upon a Time in Hollwood:


What exactly are we in for?

“A love-letter to the tinsel town of the late ’60s? The story of a down-on-his-luck actor and his stuntman? A fairytale retelling of the Manson Family murder spree? The answer is all the above.” – Jordan Farley, Total Film / Games Radar

“Such a moving film, at once a love letter — and a dream — of the Hollywood that was.” – Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

“A grand playground for the director to further fetishize old pop culture, to break things and hurt people, and to bring a wide-eyed glee and a robust sense of perversity to the whole craft of moviemaking.” – Steve Pond, The Wrap

“A lopsided cultural mashup as viewed through Tarantino’s exuberant cinematic filter.” – Eric Kohn, IndieWire

(Photo by Sony Pictures)

How does Once Upon a Time… stack up against Tarantino’s other movies?

“If not a career best, it’s an extraordinary career summation.” – David Sexton, London Evening Standard

“In many ways, this is the most modern and realized of his films, a culmination of all the various pastiches to form a love letter to the past and a speculative fiction of what could have been.” – Jason Gorber, Slashfilm

“The film takes its time to build up atmosphere and character. This may very well irk some of his newer fans, but for all of us who fell for QT’s cinema back in the 1990s, it is an absolutely welcome.” – Jordan Ruimy, World of Reel
“For Tarantino this is an almost soft-hearted – for him – film…a new departure for the filmmaker. And the warmth is welcome.” – Fionnuala Halligan, Screen International

“It may be the first Tarantino film that leaves with a genuine sense of, wait for it, hope.” – Gregory Ellwood, Collider

“[It’s] the filmmaker’s weirdest movie…his ultimate hangout movie.” – Eric Kohn, IndieWire
“The spectacular talkiness of previous Tarantino films is in shorter supply…Quentin Tarantino’s most contemplative movie until it isn’t.” – Steve Pond, The Wrap

“There is little here that has not been seen from Quentin Tarantino before…frankly, this time I was hoping for something more.” – Jo-Anne Titmarsh, HeyUGuys

“Tarantino at his most indulgent and unfocused.” – Jordan Farley, Total Film / Games Radar


Is it also his most personal work?

“This is the most personal movie of Tarantino’s career. You can feel the effect the Manson murders must have had on a 6 year-old QT living in 1969 L.A.” – Jordan Ruimy, World of Reel

“You can see it as the work of a 56-year-old artist wondering about his place in a changing industry.” – Steve Pond, The Wrap

“What Tarantino really seems to want to do with the film is just talk about old stuff he likes.” – Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair

Joel Meares

So it’s also still another pop culture pastiche?

“It’s filled with homages to (or outright re-creations of) old TV shows, old movies, old advertising jingles: Tarantino indulges in his obsessions as he gets to direct all the stuff he loved as a kid.” – Steve Pond, The Wrap

“A clumsy voiceover ticks off the names of spaghetti western directors, from Peroni to Corbucci, as if Tarantino reverse-engineered the script by starting with the callouts and building the narrative from there.” – Eric Kohn, IndieWire

“Much of the reference-obsessed auteur’s latest is focused on the small screen…this marks an interesting—maybe telling?—shift for the director.” – Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair

“This homage also has the ache of a requiem.” – Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

(Photo by Sony Pictures)


Can we expect the usual Tarantino type of soundtrack, too?

“The Tarantino jukebox gets the kind of workout it hasn’t since “Pulp Fiction” (Roy Head! Paul Revere and the Raiders! Neil Diamond! Vanilla Fudge!)” – Steve Pond, The Wrap

“The soundtrack is trademark Tarantino – there are fewer deep cuts here, but with a late-’60s soundscape and a big production budget, there are some stupendous songs selected.” – Jason Gorber, Slashfilm

(Photo by Sony Pictures)


Does it do a good job depicting the period?

“This film must have the most plausible, immersive depiction of late-Sixties L.A. since they shot films in L.A. in the late Sixties.” – Robbie Collin, The Telegraph

“Tarantino’s recreation of the Hollywood of 1969 is absolutely gorgeous to behold.” – Jordan Ruimy, World of Reel

“Tarantino re-creates the Hollywood of 50 years ago with a fantastically detailed and almost swoony time-machine precision…the movie captures how Hollywood, by 1969, was a head-spinningly layered place.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“The production design is impeccable; when Cliff speeds around Burbank, he’s practically driving through a documentary.”- Eric Kohn, IndieWire


How are Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt together?

“Both stars are fiercely enjoyable to watch here in their first pairing.” – Fionnuala Halligan, Screen International

“Neither has been better, and you’re witnessing some truly special performances captured for our viewing pleasure…an immediately iconic buddy pair.” – Jason Gorber, Slashfilm

“The film’s major asset is these two performances, both loose and funny and amiable…They have a beguiling chemistry.” – Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair

Joel Meares


Who else stands out?

“[Margo Robbie is] the heart and soul of this film.” – Jordan Ruimy, World of Reel

“Margot Robbie gives a sympathetic portrayal of Tate, Dakota Fanning is intimidatingly sinister…and Lorenza Izzo has a spirited turn.” – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

“Mike Moh as Bruce Lee…is a highlight in a film of many highlights.” – Jason Gorber, Slashfilm

“The slower moments have delicious touches or wonderful cameos (ladies and gentlemen, Bruce Freakin’ Dern!).” – Steve Pond, The Wrap

“Familiar faces such as Timothy Olyphant, Luke Perry, Mark Madsen, Lena Dunham and Damien Lewis stand out in small roles.” – Gregory Ellwood, Collider


What’s the movie’s biggest problems?

“The film takes its time, to the point where at times it starts to feel sluggish – but even the slower moments have delicious touches or wonderful cameos.” – Steve Pond, The Wrap

“There were stretches during my screening when I was a little bored…the lack of real connective tissue is often more frustrating than it is charming.” – Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair

“[An] issue is the film’s length…Tarantino spends so much time in Rick’s fictional world that he leaves out time for the much more interesting real world.” – Jo-Anne Titmarsh, HeyUGuys

“He starts to use the narrator more often, breaking the show-don’t-tell mystique, and we wonder why. Isn’t he the master of showing?” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“Pitt’s character is capital-P problematic, absolutely by design – but the transgressive thrill is undeniable, and the artistry mesmerizingly assured.” – Robbie Collin, The Telegraph

“There is no doubt that this is a very male movie.” – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian


And how does Tarantino handle a certain notorious massacre?

“[It’s] a hazily freewheeling Tarantinification of the horrific events.” – Robbie Collin, The Telegraph

“Entirely outrageous, disorientating, irresponsible, and also brilliant.” – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

“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, The Telegraph

“Some may find [it] daring and others disturbing…time will tell whether general audiences believe the film commemorates or exploits the horrors of 1969 and its victims.” – Jason Gorber, Slashfilm

(Photo by Sony Pictures)


Is it too violent?

“Sensationally violent even by Quentin’s high standards.” – David Sexton, London Evening Standard

“There are some shocking happenings from a gore standpoint although compared to other Tarantino fare it’s tempered a bit.” – Gregory Ellwood, Collider

“Suffice it to say that those starved for stylized violence will get their bone and like it.” – Charles Bramesco, Birth.Movies.Death

“When the movie’s truly gnarly spate of violence happens, it’s both grimly cathartic and revolting, a brief, horrific riot of crunch and gush that comes across a bit too gleeful.” – Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair


So we should just see it for ourselves?

“[Has] its fair share of problems…but it’s a film peppered with scenes of such magnificence [that its] diversions are worth taking.” – Jordan Farley, Total Film / Games Radar

“I defy anyone with red blood in their veins not to respond to the crazy bravura of Tarantino’s filmmaking, 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, The Guardian


Once Upon in Time in Hollywood opens in theaters July 26, 2019.

#1
Adjusted Score: 110.073%
Critics Consensus: Thrillingly unrestrained yet solidly crafted, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood tempers Tarantino's provocative impulses with the clarity of a mature filmmaker's vision.
Synopsis: Quentin Tarantino's ninth feature film is a story that takes place in Los Angeles in 1969, at the height of... [More]
Directed By: Quentin Tarantino

Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.

Tag Cloud

NYCC DC Comics hist serial killer Shondaland Trailer political drama comics New York Comic Con Opinion talk show rotten Oscars sag awards die hard Shudder DC streaming service Disney streaming service festivals FX on Hulu E3 transformers anime Tumblr cooking game of thrones Western sequels Sneak Peek Netflix TruTV Reality Competition indie movies Food Network DirecTV Disney science fiction CMT Tarantino latino Columbia Pictures comedies BBC VICE crime thriller disaster twilight Epix dramedy Action streaming child's play Pet Sematary criterion south america Watching Series Mindy Kaling Amazon Rock Awards Christmas Fox Searchlight Amazon Prime Brie Larson aliens Nominations Emmy Nominations football justice league romantic comedy DC Universe Turner El Rey IFC Films APB comic books Lifetime Christmas movies cartoon TIFF 4/20 Heroines WGN Black Mirror The Walking Dead History Academy Awards Mudbound discovery Travel Channel indiana jones harry potter dc dragons Black History Month RT History festival sequel Set visit Cannes Red Carpet movie Fantasy Apple TV+ franchise finale concert Disney+ Disney Plus supernatural Nat Geo teaser Women's History Month Warner Bros. A24 Super Bowl X-Men spinoff Vudu satire psychological thriller SDCC green book scary movies GoT LGBT Awards Tour Classic Film Endgame Tubi a nightmare on elm street zombies robots Television Critics Association Mary poppins diversity Podcast halloween cancelled TV shows Marvel cars CNN CBS All Access SundanceTV GIFs laika award winner Nickelodeon Turner Classic Movies italian werewolf Dark Horse Comics Crunchyroll casting 24 frames toy story Logo Spectrum Originals Marathons Cosplay The Witch cults Showtime Spike crossover joker Captain marvel First Reviews boxoffice Interview Biopics adaptation zombie Star Wars GLAAD reboot video on demand slashers Lifetime spy thriller blaxploitation halloween tv what to watch mutant stoner Sundance technology National Geographic Fox News Syfy Ellie Kemper Extras screen actors guild television spanish TV renewals japanese nature series tv talk WarnerMedia TCA 2017 animated war reviews Mary Poppins Returns mockumentary Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Toys 71st Emmy Awards comiccon ABC Family Musicals Lucasfilm RT21 Walt Disney Pictures revenge CW Seed Chernobyl remakes historical drama critics Pixar TCM HBO Max cops name the review Peacock 007 Tomatazos toronto NBC First Look ABC The Purge travel 2018 Premiere Dates medical drama adventure Character Guide ESPN game show Emmys news Best and Worst Video Games Funimation mission: impossible Sundance Now Calendar directors zero dark thirty Trivia Mary Tyler Moore Marvel Studios ITV Countdown Pirates TCA VH1 dogs Baby Yoda BAFTA Valentine's Day 2017 true crime TV Anna Paquin Crackle stop motion miniseries PlayStation HBO BET TCA Winter 2020 ratings Spring TV ID breaking bad anthology OWN Disney Channel Comics on TV President Teen children's TV Family biography black doctor who FX Winter TV Horror Netflix Christmas movies batman documentary golden globes vampires nfl MSNBC Film Sony Pictures documentaries MTV USA Network Winners social media Martial Arts PBS Box Office 20th Century Fox chucky renewed TV shows E! Country Kids & Family ghosts 2015 Year in Review blockbuster docudrama 45 Apple spain jamie lee curtis unscripted classics YouTube Premium YouTube asian-american Holiday Thanksgiving 72 Emmy Awards universal monsters Cartoon Network Rocky Amazon Studios rotten movies we love TV Land crime Starz Stephen King Universal Apple TV Plus superhero HBO Go Grammys crime drama Elton John Esquire Hallmark Bravo composers cancelled TV series American Society of Cinematographers Acorn TV BET Awards The Academy Masterpiece Freeform cinemax Disney Plus space Infographic fast and furious Song of Ice and Fire richard e. Grant based on movie canceled TV shows IFC Comic Book PaleyFest Hulu The Arrangement spanish language Adult Swim Drama dceu facebook 2020 Pop AMC USA Film Festival Music San Diego Comic-Con Summer Mystery stand-up comedy dark Superheroe quibi DGA emmy awards Lionsgate singing competition Discovery Channel worst movies versus MCU natural history 2016 Animation witnail screenings sitcom Writers Guild of America CBS Avengers Polls and Games venice TCA Awards Ghostbusters TLC binge 2019 worst australia Sci-Fi VOD Comedy Central free movies Election Sundance TV comic nbcuniversal Amazon Prime Video Musical theme song OneApp The CW LGBTQ psycho cancelled all-time scorecard Paramount Network cancelled television YA BBC America book thriller canceled BBC One FOX Binge Guide SXSW Schedule Quiz Holidays parents Ovation Photos TNT Rocketman archives strong female leads french romance hispanic Creative Arts Emmys christmas movies kids Arrowverse elevated horror TBS best Rom-Com sports Certified Fresh spider-man independent FXX politics period drama Pride Month obituary police drama Marvel Television A&E YouTube Red video Paramount cats Star Trek Television Academy See It Skip It foreign hollywood Hallmark Christmas movies Fall TV 21st Century Fox Superheroes Reality films Comedy Pop TV Britbox Hear Us Out Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Trophy Talk