Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood Parent Guide
A good introduction to Quentin Tarantino's films with polished direction and heavy doses of violence and profanity.
Parent Movie Review
Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), have been struggling to find good roles since the long-running western “Bounty Law” ended. Now, the best Rick can get is an offer from seedy producer Marvin Schwarzs (Al Pacino) to work in Italian westerns. At the same time, a group of hippies have been hitchhiking around L.A., and Cliff realizes they’ve taken up residence at an old film set, selling horse rides to tourists and taking hard drugs. Meanwhile, actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and her husband Roman Polanski (Rafał Zawierucha) have moved in next door to Rick and are learning to love the city. When these worlds collide, though, the consequences could be murderous…
Quentin Tarantino has long been hailed as a fabulous writer and director, but this film favors his directing over his writing. The dialogue is still fast, funny, and laden with all the profanity it can possibly hold, but the story is paced inconsistently, and the multiple narratives strain its cohesion. Tring to balance three distinct (but still connected) stories is difficult, and sometimes the movie focuses too much or too little on one or the other. I think Tarantino did a much better job with the split stories in Pulp Fiction, which more aptly connected its disparate threads into satisfying conclusions.
The directing is as good as ever. Tarantino’s mastery of the mise-en-scene completely sells the setting. It doesn’t feel like a soundstage or a green-screen or a studio backlot. The film feels more lived-in and authentic than almost any other recent movie set in the 1960’s, and a lot of that comes down to Tarantino’s selection of costumes, props, and gorgeous sets. The setting is almost its own character, and the film’s vibe is a sort of demented counterpoint to La La Land. Tarantino’s view of L.A. is clearly affectionate, but much darker and more malicious than that light-hearted musical. Everything you see, both subtle and obvious, speaks to the grisly death of the Golden Age of Hollywood, and what Hunter S. Thompson called “the high-water mark” of the culture wars of the 1960’s, where the hippie-wave broke and receded.
The acting also excels, although with a cast like this, it would be surprising if it didn’t. Brad Pitt exudes so much charm and charisma throughout, he could bottle and sell the stuff. I think it’s his performance that really grounds the picture. Cliff’s character holds a lot of plot threads together, and without Pitt selling that complexity, a good chunk of the film would be at risk of falling apart. Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie are also captivating, and both capture very different vibes. They’re both playing actors, but actors with different careers and hugely different personalities.
Is this a film suitable for family viewing? Absolutely not. I doubt Tarantino will ever make a film you’d want to watch with your grandparents in the room, let alone your kids. Constant profanity tends to have that effect. But as Tarantino films go, this is probably the least violent (which isn’t to say it isn’t very violent), and if you want an introduction to the filmmaker, this might be a good place to start before wading into the deep-end with the much more graphic and frequent violence in his other movies. I don’t think this is his strongest work, but it’s a satisfying film with all his usual hallmarks, even if it would have been more satisfying with a run time about half an hour shorter.Directed by Quentin Tarantino. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Margot Robbie. Running time: 161 minutes. Theatrical release July 26, 2019. Updated July 25, 2019
Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood
Rating & Content Info
Why is Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood rated R? Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood is rated R by the MPAA for language throughout, some strong graphic violence, drug use, and sexual references.
Violence: Throughout the film, there are several scenes which occur during production of other movies which contain staged violence. These include individuals being shot and falling from roofs, fistfights, and being burned alive with flamethrowers. “Real world” violence includes an individual being beaten and thrown into the side of a car, a person being bludgeoned with a can of dog food, a telephone, a table, and a mantelpiece, an individual being stabbed, three people being bitten by a dog, and someone being burned alive with a flamethrower.
Sexual Content: No nudity or direct sexual content is shown. There are three references to sexual behavior. One scene occurs at the Playboy Mansion, although there is no nudity or even reference to it, surprisingly enough.
Profanity: Being a Tarantino movie, there is constant use of profanity in all categories. There are approximately 190 swear words in this film, including frequent uses of the sexual expletive, scatological curses, and terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Characters are frequently shown drinking and smoking. This is implied to have negative consequences, as the protagonist develops a disgusting cough from smoking and finds that his heavy drinking has hurt his career. Individuals are shown rolling and smoking marijuana. An individual is shown smoking cigarette coated in LSD and tripping.
Page last updated July 25, 2019
Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood Parents' Guide
Any film featuring Roman Polanski has its own issues to address about directorial and criminal behavior. Quentin Tarantino doesn’t exactly have a spotless record either, from his admitted inaction regarding Harvey Weinstein to the allegations that he has physically abused female actors on set. To what extent do you believe an artist and their art should be linked in controversy? Has Tarantino been properly confronted about his actions (or lack thereof)? How do you think Tarantino films treat their female characters? How does this one compare
Loved this movie? Try these books…
If you are fascinated by the history of Tinseltown, you will probably enjoy Gregory Paul Williams’ lavishly illustrated The Story of Hollywood: An Illustrated History. If you want a first person perspective on Hollywood in the 1960s, you can try Peter Bart’s Infamous Players: A Tale of Movies, the Mob (and Sex).
Perhaps the best known account of the Manson murders, Helter Skelter was written by Vincent Bugliosi, the prosecutor in the criminal trial, and Curt Gentry.
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Movies about actors aren’t in short supply. For a family friendly film featuring performers trying to make it in Hollywood you can try La La Land. A classic film about an aging actress, All About Eve, stars Bette Davis as a star trying to save her fading career.
If you’re interested in the beginnings of Hollywood, you will want to watch The Artist. This film follows an actor whose career is imperiled by the switch from silent films to talkies. The beloved musical, Singin’ in the Rain, tells a more lighthearted story about this technological transition.