Critics Are Comparing Tarantino's 'Moving' Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood to Pulp Fiction


Quentin Tarantino's upcoming ninth film Once Upon a Time In... Hollywood is one of the most anticipated, and highly secretive movies of the year (which is saying something for a 2019 that also includes a Star Wars movie and Avengers: Endgame). But, after years of speculation, the film finally premiered at Cannes yesterday, and reviews have already started trickling in. The good news for fans is that results are pretty favorable, with the film currently holding a 91 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. And critics certainly agree on one thing: Once Upon a Time In... Hollywood is 165 minutes of pure, unadulterated Quentin Tarantino.

In the New York Times, Manohla Dargis writes, "What was entirely unexpected was that Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood, which had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on Tuesday, would be such a moving film, at once a love letter—and a dream—of the Hollywood that was." Most reviews tend to echo that sentiment, noting how much of a personal touch Tarantino puts on the film. Although this isn't a positive across the board. Vanity Fair's Richard Lawson noted, "It also felt like the movie wasn’t getting anywhere, amounting to a collection of shapeless set-pieces that verge on the indulgent. In Hollywood, the lack of real connective tissue is often more frustrating than it is charming."


Variety also mentioned that while the film drew parallels to Pulp Fiction, which opened at Cannes a quarter-decade ago, Owen Gleiberman was interested in what he considers Tarantino's last great film Inglourious Basterds and whether Hollywood would live up to that hype:

Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, which premiered today at Cannes, is not that X Factor movie — though for long stretches (a good more than half of it), it feels like it could be. It comes closer than Django Unchained or (God knows) The Hateful Eight. It’s a heady, engrossing, kaleidoscopic, spectacularly detailed nostalgic splatter collage of a film, an epic tale of backlot Hollywood in 1969, which allows Tarantino to pile on all his obsessions...

Elsewhere, the reviews have been extremely positive. Peter Bradshaw wrote for 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..." Vulture's Bilge Ebiri said, "It’s the most fun the director seems to have had in years, but it’s also, oddly, his most compassionate picture in more than a decade."

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But most interestingly, reviewers seemed to note with caution (the director and producers heavily pleaded for a no-spoiler policy) that the ending was a bit of a surprise, taking liberties with history. Perhaps most succinctly, The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney alludes, "It's also a disarming and characteristically subversive love letter to its inspiration, in which Tarantino rebuilds the Dream Factory as it existed during the time of his childhood, while rewriting the traumatic episode often identified as the end of that era."


But, the rest of us will have to wait until July to decide for ourselves.

This story originally appeared on

* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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Justin Kirkland
Justin Kirkland is a writer for Esquire, where he focuses on entertainment, television, and pop culture. Prior to Esquire, his work appeared in Entertainment Weekly, Hollywood Reporter, and USA Today. He is from East Tennessee and currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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