A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Once Upon a Time in Hollywood -- an intense crime movie written and directed by Quentin Tarantino and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Margot Robbie -- is set in 1969 and tangentially involves the Manson Family. As usual for Tarantino, there are scenes of extremely shocking, graphic violence, including a woman's face being smashed repeatedly against the wall, vicious dog attacks, characters getting burned by a flamethrower, punching, blood spurts, gun use, fighting, and more. Language is also very strong, with tons of uses of "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "c--k," and more. There's somewhat explicit sex talk, a scene set at the Playboy Mansion, and scantily clad women. Characters drink and smoke tons of cigarettes (one tinged with acid), and one character wonders whether he might be an alcoholic. The movie is definitely mature, but it's also beautifully made, complex, funny, and smart, though it does mix up fact and fiction.
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What's the story?
In ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD, it's 1969, and hard-drinking, fading cowboy/action star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) struggles with his career, trying to decide whether to continue playing bad guys in TV pilots or go to Italy to make Spaghetti Westerns. Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), Rick's longtime stuntman, is now largely unemployable and passes the time driving Rick around and taking care of Rick's home maintenance. Living next door is rising star Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), who recently married director Roman Polanski and is enjoying the response to her new movie, The Wrecking Crew. Trouble arises when Cliff picks up a hitchhiker (Margaret Qualley) and takes her to the Spahn Ranch, where the soon-to-be notorious Manson Family lives. And a terrible coincidence brings the cult members back to Hollywood.
Is it any good?
Quentin Tarantino returns, refreshed, with this funny, beautiful period piece, wrapping his story's loopy laces around movie lore and history, and mixing life and art into a cool, wild collage. With Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Tarantino returns to Los Angeles for the first time since the Kill Bill movies, and it appears to have recharged his batteries. The film feels excited by the way cinema is imprinted in Hollywood's streets, but also the way its connected/disconnected sprawl offers any number of cool, hidden stories at any given moment. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood moves beautifully and simply, following vintage cars as they blast 1960s-era pop tunes from tinny radios.
But the roads traveled weave together in complex ways, with real history and fake history crashing up against each other, combining into what can only be cinema. As usual, Tarantino also toys with violence, both imagined and real, both direct and indirect, subverting expectations. At the center, Robbie's Sharon Tate is a little underexplored, but she at least seems sweet and smart. Rick and Cliff, meanwhile, feel like old buddies, with a comfortable shorthand and warmth between them. The combination in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is epic, exhilarating, and wildly entertaining.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Once Upon a Time in Hollywood's violence. How did it make you feel? What does the movie have to say about violence in general, both in movies and in real life?
What really happened to Sharon Tate and her friends? How does the movie change that? What is the movie saying about fact and fiction? History and movies?
How is sex portrayed? What values are imparted?
- In theaters: July 26, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: December 10, 2019
- Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie
- Director: Quentin Tarantino
- Studio: Columbia Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 161 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language throughout, some strong graphic violence, drug use and sexual references
- Awards/Honors: Academy Award, BAFTA, Golden Globe
- Last updated: May 24, 2020
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