Reactions to Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” which premiered Tuesday evening in Cannes, have started flooding Twitter, and critics are excited, to say the least.
The movie, starring Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie, is set in 1969 Hollywood against the backdrop of the Manson murders. DiCaprio plays washed-up TV star Rick Dalton, while Pitt portrays his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth. The two are struggling to find their place as they attempt to navigate the final days of Hollywood’s golden age. Robbie, whose performance has received rave reviews from critics, plays the late Sharon Tate, who moves next door to Dalton. As with most Tarantino movies, things take a dark and violent turn from there.
Quentin Tarantino, Brad Pitt, and Leonardo DiCaprio Take You Inside Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood
Initial reactions from critics on Twitter are positive, and some compare it to “Pulp Fiction,” one of Tarantino’s early works that made him a household name. Writer Jason Gorber even predicts that the director could win the Palme d’Or at Cannes.
LD: It was hard for me to wrap my head around that concept, because I don’t think I’ve done a film where the narrative takes place over just a couple days. I always look at “Where’s the beginning, where’s the middle, where’s the climax and the crescendo?” I think this script was actually a real benefit to us as actors; it freed us up in a lot of ways. I certainly felt it, I think Brad felt that. We were given this incredible backstory. Quentin literally handed us our character’s life and we discussed it, and there were some things we agreed with and didn’t agree with, but we were given this road map of who these guys were. All that character history naturally infused its way into these two days in a really organic way. Stuff didn’t need to be explained. It was just there in the gestures, and there in the relationship. Usually, I’m like, “Let’s explain everything about the character. . . .” Quentin’s like, “No, this is just two days. We’re going to get glimpses of Rick’s condition and what Rick’s mentally and emotionally going through.” As an actor, you get this sort of weird relaxation from it, and that’s the beauty of great filmmaking: Not everything needs to be, as my father says, Irving the Explainer. [Everyone laughs.] It’s the audience filling in the gaps that makes this movie, I think, very courageous. But doing a film that’s set over only two, three days? It is an experiment that I don’t think I’ve ever done before. [Looks to Pitt.] Have you done it?
ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD – Historically dubious, thematically brilliant, QT finds his form in film that could win Palme d'Or or be picketed by audiences, or maybe both. Thrilling, provocative, blackly comical, intensely unsettling masterwork. #cannes2019
ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD: Tarantino wasn't joking when he said this was the closest to PULP FICTION that he has come. He juggles a mosaic of characters and story-lines in this one, eventually stringing them together for a relentlessly playful and touching finale. #Cannes2019
I wouldnt change a single second of Once Upon A Time … In Hollywood. It did not disappoint. #Cannes2019
Other journalists who attended the world premiere were left needing more time to digest Tarantino’s latest flick. Kyle Buchanan of the New York Times said, “There will be many, many hot takes on the new Tarantino, but I don’t mind letting mine cool off on the counter a little longer.”
LD: Stop fucking drinking! [Everyone laughs.] I watched a whole bunch of old films to prepare for this movie, and somewhere along the line I watched Gun Crazy [a 1950 film noir] and I was like, “Wow!” It was the seminal independent film where people didn’t have all the opportunities that Orson Welles would have had at the time with Touch of Evil—and I think about people working with some not-huge stars, a director who was pretty damn good but hadn’t made anything unbelievable. And with all the chips stacked against them, that combination of ambition got together to make something that was a phenomenal piece of art. And that’s what I would tell Rick: There’s always a shot. Maybe not quite the opportunities that you had hoped for, but there’s always a shot to do something magnificent—and to get out of that story that you have in your head that keeps playing like a computer virus, that story that says you’ve been screwed over by the industry, by society, by the changing of times. You know, I just hate hearing, “Everything happens for a reason. The universe is watching over you.”
There will be many, many hot takes to come on the new Tarantino but I dont mind letting mine cool off on the counter a little longer. I know its more relaxed than I was expecting, and that DiCaprio is terrific, funny and poignant. The rest, Im gonna mull over. #Cannes2019
To be completely honest I'm not yet sure what to make of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Need to let this one marinate, don't have an instant reaction. Most of the film is pretty good, I'm having fun watching them play around in late 60s Hollywood. Then the finale is HOLY FUCK.
BP: The positive of the new landscape is you see more people getting opportunities. But I see something else happening with the younger generations. I was dismayed at how many twenty-year-olds have never seen Godfather, Cuckoo’s Nest, All the President’s Men—these films that are in the Bible to me. And they may not even get to see them. I’ve always believed every good film finds its eyes, inevitably. But there’s a shift in attention span. I’ve been hearing from newer generations that they’re used to something shorter, quicker, big jump, and get out. And the streaming services work that way; you can move on to the next one if you’re enticed. What I always loved about going to a cinema was letting something slowly unfold, and to luxuriate in that story and watch and see where it goes. I’m curious to see if that whole form of movie watching is just out the window with the younger generations. I don’t think so completely.
I'm thinking #OnceUponATimeinHollywood is going to divide critics. Heck, I'm divided, and I'm just one critic. But I think the side of me that enjoyed it is going to win out. #Cannes2019
Other critics weighed in, applauding the gritty look at Hollywood and the Charles Manson murders. Read more reactions below:
As expected, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is Tarantino referencing other films and TV and old Hollywood and good times in the 60s. Digging into his past and showing us, through perfectly crafted cinema, his feelings about moviemaking and artists and the Manson murders and more.
Quentin Tarantinos brilliant exploitation black-comedy Once Upon A Time In Hollywood finds a pulp-fictionally redemptive take on the Manson nightmare: shocking, gripping, dazzlingly shot in the celluloid-primary colours of sky blue and sunset gold. Review later #Cannes2019
#OnceUponATimeInHollywood is a beautiful, brash rumination on the grime and beauty of Hollywood. It is a dirty, sensually realized feat, with many, many shots of dirty, sensualized feet.#QuentinTarantino #Cannes2019
I laughed. I gasped. I wondered: What would Roman Polanski think? I begrudgingly agreed not to tweet out spoilers. Tarantino delivers an ode to Hollywood's lost innocence, while cheekily suggesting it never had any to begin with. #OnceUponATimeinHollywood #Cannes2019 pic.twitter.com/DBgriD2Ihb
QT: [Laughs.] Brad immediately thought that the idea was hip and really wanted to lean into it. But there’s an interesting thing as far as Cliff is concerned: We follow three different people in Hollywood, and they represent the three social strata of the town. We follow Sharon, who is truly living the Hollywood life. Then Rick, who is doing better than he thinks he’s doing. He has a house, some money, and he’s still working. Then Cliff represents a guy who has dedicated his entire life to this industry and has nothing to show for it. [DiCaprio and Pitt laugh.] He is part of Hollywood, but he lives in Panorama City in a trailer. Make no mistake: Hollywood is his life, but he is nota citizen. These three social strata are important to the story.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD: Why is no one tweeting about Margot Robbie? She's the heart and soul of this film. Her Sharon Tate is the most humane and resonant character of the entire movie. Almost every scene she's in is heartbreaking to watch. #Cannes2019
ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD is wonderful. its like tarantino is just dreamily reminiscing for our benefit. feels innocent somehow—lovely, pure, hilarious. witnessing robbie, dicaprio, & pitt pristinely embody 60s LA is enough to make it great. and👏🏼that👏🏼payoff👏🏼 #Cannes2019
When we spoke on the phone, Tarantino told me, “This film is the closest thing I’ve done to Pulp Fiction.” What that means in tone and feel, I can’t reveal. But what that means in terms of structure is this: Think multiple characters (some real, some imagined) and story lines that are seemingly unrelated . . . until they are not. Until they intersect and intertwine in surprising ways. This film, Tarantino says, is also “probably my most personal. I think of it like my memory piece. Alfonso [Cuarón] had Roma and Mexico City, 1970. I had L. A. and 1969. This is me. This is the year that formed me. I was six years old then. This is my world. And this is my love letter to L. A.”
DiCaprio is pretty great, but Pitt is amazing. Not sure about the message – if there is one – and definitely not the most quotable Tarantino.
QT: One of the things we don’t want to try to help you solve here but what you’re poking around about is, yes, this is a Hollywood movie in the same vein as, like, The Stunt Man or Singin’ in the Rain or any other movie about Hollywood. And there’s a good-hearted spirit to it. Then you ask, “How does the Manson Family fit in?” Well, that’s the trick. And that is, actually, how it is supposed to work: “How does this rancidness figure into everything?” And I want the audience asking that question, and I hope that’s one of the things that helps lead you to the theater. It’s like we’ve got a perfectly good body, and then we take a syringe and inject it with a deadly virus.
once upon a time in hollywood: the maestro once again weaves a rich tapestry of an america long past or perhaps…not. a vicious takedown of celebrity that revels in the flashing lights. a love letter & a screed, a whisper yet also a pray. the scared & the propane #Cannes2019
Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood is so gloriously, wickedly indulgent, compelling and hilarious. The film QT was born to make. The world is a more colourful place in Quentin Tarantinos twilight zone. Round two, please. #Cannes2019
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood or Tarantinos bromance. Naturally in love with the old timey movies and LA. On set Western scenes are my fav. Wasnt expecting to be so charmed by it #Cannes2019 pic.twitter.com/sp1fApO2I9
An agent of that change, Charles Manson, is glimpsed in the above clip, as is the ranch where he lived with his Family, the cult that went on to murder actress Sharon Tate—Margot Robbies turn as the starlet is also on display here, the starry-eyed actress still adjusting to a life in the spotlight. We also get an idea of just how Manson and his crew intersect with our characters, as Brad Pitts aging stuntman is seen hobnobbing with the girls that Manson drew under his spell.
The real highlight, though, is the looks we get at Daltons past films, one of which finds him channeling Tarantinos Inglourious Basterds by taking a flamethrower to some Nazis. Anybody order fried sauerkraut?! DiCaprio screams in what might be the best acting of his career.
Check it out below ahead of the films July 26 premiere, and stay tuned for our own dispatch from Cannes.