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Today’s Prayer Focus

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

also known as “Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood,” “Bilo jednom... u Holivudu,” “Bilo jednom... u Hollywoodu,” “Bir Zamanlar... Hollywood'da,” “C'era una volta a... Hollywood,” “Chuyen Ngay Xua O Hollywood,” See more »
MPA Rating: R-Rating (MPA) for language throughout, some strong graphic violence, drug use, and sexual references.

Reviewed by: David Cook

Moral Rating: Extremely Offensive — Not Recommended
Moviemaking Quality:
Primary Audience: • Young-Adults • Adults
Genre: Comedy Crime Drama
Length: 2 hr. 41 min.
Year of Release: 2019
USA Release: July 26, 2019 (wide—3,500+ theaters)
DVD: December 10, 2019
Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Picturesclick photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures
Relevant Issues

Revisionist history / the movie’s strong alteration of historical realities

Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures

Charles Manson murders, including the murder of pregnant Sharon Tate, wife of Roman Polanski

About murder

About death

FILM VIOLENCE—How does viewing violence in movies affect families? Answer

Alcoholics / alcoholism / about drunkenness in the Bible

CELEBRITIES’ VIEWS—What do “Hollywood” celebrities believe about spiritual issues? Find out

HOLLYWOOD DISCONNECT—Why is there a disconnect between “Hollywood” and the rest of America? Answer

CHANGE HOLLYWOOD—What is being done to change the values of “Hollywood”? Answer

Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures
Featuring Leonardo DiCaprioRick Dalton
Brad PittCliff Booth
Margot RobbieSharon Tate
Rafal Zawierucha … Roman Polanski, Tate’s husband
Emile HirschJay Sebring, Tate’s hairdresser
Timothy OlyphantJames Stacy
Damon HerrimanCharles Manson
Austin ButlerCharles “Tex” Watson, a central member of the “Manson Family”
Dakota FanningSqueaky Fromme, a member of the “Manson Family”
Margaret QualleyPussycat, a member of the “Manson Family”
Lena Dunham“Gypsy” Catherine Share, a “Manson Family” member
Bruce DernGeorge Spahn—rented ranch to Charles Manson
Madisen Beaty … “Katie” Patricia Dianne Krenwinkel, a “Manson Family” member
Victoria Pedretti … “Lulu” Leslie Van Houten, a “Manson Family” member
Sarah May Sommers (Sarah Wald) … Manson Family member
Daniel Callister … Manson Family member
Zack Whyel … Manson Family member
Sean Baker … Manson Family member
Bomber Hurley-Smith … Manson Family member
Damian LewisSteve McQueen
Al PacinoMarvin Schwarzs
Kurt RussellRandy, a stunt coordinator
Zoe BellRandy’s wife
Luke PerryWayne Maunder
Mike MohBruce Lee
Scoot McNairyBusiness Bob Gilbert
Clifton Collins Jr.Ernesto The Mexican Vaquero
Maya Hawke … Flower Child, a “Manson Family” member
See all »
Director Quentin Tarantino
Producer Bona Film Group [China]
Heyday Films [Great Britain]
See all »
Distributor Distributor: Columbia Pictures. Trademark logo.Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures

I forgot I was in a theater. I was transported to a different time and place. How did they do it? Patient filmmaking. Quentin Tarantino elevated his skill and showcased his patience as a filmmaker in “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”—his new film about the golden era of Los Angeles. He showed patience establishing 1969 with fashion, music, and the daily way of life. He showed patience developing characters with real struggles, real ambitions, and the obstacles standing in their way. He showed patience establishing the industry of Hollywood… its fickle nature of success, the fear of failure, and the lifestyle it affords. Finally, he showed patience establishing the inevitable horror hiding behind the neon lights and marquees. This patience allowed me to become fully immersed in an unfamiliar environment, and I didn’t want to leave.

Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a dwindling TV/movie star being chauffeured from one Hollywood set to another by his stunt-double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Painfully, we watch Rick as he works tirelessly at his craft in his attempt to stay relevant while battling his own demons.

As Rick’s career declines, so does Cliff’s. However, Cliff seems content with his modest lifestyle and the imminent change approaching. He enjoys driving his rusted car, listening to the radio, and spending evenings with his dog. Soon, they realize Rick has new neighbors—Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie)—the hottest director in town and his wife… an up-and-coming actress.

In contrast to Rick and Cliff, their new neighbors are ascending into stardom. With this success comes star-studded Hollywood parties, fast cars, and the best restaurants—a juxtaposition to the lives of Rick and Cliff. Though their lives are on different trajectories, they are thrust together by multiple encounters with a hippy-like family led by the infamous Charles Manson. Here, fiction and history collide in a interesting and horrific tale of not-so-long-ago.

If you are familiar with the films of Quentin Tarantino, you know to expect excessive foul language, drug use, and violence… especially with a film dealing with the Manson murders. “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” certainly includes all of these familiar elements, but what I didn’t expect was a sweet and uplifting story told with such a controlled and mature direction. Tarantino seems to have removed his distinct, stylized flair and replaced it with homage to the movies of that era… specifically “American Graffiti” and Roman Polanski’s own “Chinatown.” I doubt that was a coincidence.

Ironically, the only times that you see the trademark Tarantino style is in the fictional, old movies and TV shows from the characters’ pasts… which is completely inaccurate to the style of that time, but a fun and clever directorial decision for this narrative.

Brad Pitt’s (“Fight Club,” “Inglourious Basterds”) performance as Cliff is subdued but complex. He looks at each day as a new opportunity. He is gentle, but his job portrays violence, and his past is checkered. He balances this dichotomy effortlessly.

Margot Robbie (“The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Suicide Squad”) sensitively interprets a real-life portrait of Sharon Tate in a way that is totally endearing. Everything about this glamorous Hollywood lifestyle is new to her. Her self-confidence is restrained, but her future is bright.

The star of the film, though, is Leonardo DiCaprio (“Titanic,” “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “The Revenant”) as Rick Dalton. His performance juggles multiple tiers of his character: 1) a delicate actor delivering inconsistent performances, 2) a self-centered, impatient alcoholic, 3) a concerned neighbor, and 4) a good friend.

This film is not for the faint of heart. The foul language is excessive in its use of the f-word, s**t, a**hole, and more. This film focuses on late 60’s fashion, so there are many shots focused on mini-skirts and bare midriffs. There is a large amount of drinking, smoking, and using drugs, plus a couple explicit moments of sex talk… but nothing is shown.

The number of scenes of violence is not as frequent as I expected in a Tarantino film, but when it happens, this violence is extreme and graphic… and, in the usual Tarantino fashion, he makes the audience laugh inappropriately during these violent moments.

Despite all the vulgarity that comes with this film and the disturbing history of Charles Manson—“Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” tells a rather beautiful story of aspiration, kindness, and friendship. It looks at history, and it remembers the good that once was. In a time with no Internet or cell phones, people managed to stay connected. They listened to the same radio stations, gave people rides, and looked after one another.

The friendship between Rick and Cliff is genuine. They have been through thick and thin, and their bond will not be broken by the struggles they face. Have you ever worked side by side with someone to help those in need?… soup kitchen, mission’s trip, etc. For me, those bonds never die, because we see each other in our rawest element. All through the Gospels and into Paul’s writings, we learn what the disciples experienced in friendship with Jesus. As a result of following Jesus, experiencing His goodness, and facing many tribulations with Him, their faithfulness grew. Subsequently, the Word of God spread, and the number of disciples increased rapidly (Acts 6). God’s Will is perfect. He knew the disciples would find strength in friendship and fellowship, and He commands that of us today (Matthew 18:20).

“Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” depicts a disturbing historical event, but it takes creative liberty as well. In doing so, the film finds inspiration and hope amid a horrible moment in time. For those that want nonstop action and thrills, this movie may underwhelm, but I was swept away by its charm and the way it views the world in a positive light… despite the consuming darkness.

  • Violence: Extreme— including… • people’s faces intensely beaten and smashed bloody • including a woman’s face repeatedly slammed against walls and objects—destroying her face (very bloody) • injured woman blasted with flamethrower (burned) • dog violently attacks a man’s crotch (bloody) • Nazi’s incinerated with flamethrower • etc.
  • Vulgar/Crude language: Extreme— • motherf***er (3 or more) • other f-words (105+), including “I'm not too young to f*** you” and “I f**ed his brains out this morning” + hand gestures • c*ck (5), including underaged girl who asks older man, “You want me to suck your c*** while you’re driving?” • d*ck • pr*ck • p*ssy • p**tang • “s*ck on that” • a**hole (5) • a** (10+) • s-words (35+) • p*ss / p*ssed • b*tch (2) • b*stards • and vulgar statements
  • Profane language: Very Heavy to Extreme— • J*sus Chr*st (4) • G*d d*mn (22+) • Oh my G*d (3) • Holy sh*t • H*ll (9) • d*mn
  • Sex: Mild to moderate in what is shown, but very heavy in what is said and the situations involved
  • Nudity: Moderate
  • Occult: Mild
Editor’s Note: The worldly and extremely offensive content in this movie is good reason for discerning followers of Jesus Christ to avoid it. Its negatives far outweigh the positives—not surprising considering that both the story and direction come from the clever mind of a very liberal atheist who has a long record of misusing the skills he has developed and the gifts given him—sending viewers into ultraviolent and sinister scenes or filling them with profuse vulgarity and profanity.

Learn about DISCERNMENT—seek wisdom in making personal entertainment decisions

cinema tickets. ©  Alexey SmirnovEvery time you buy a movie ticket or rent a video you are in effect casting a vote telling Hollywood, “I’ll pay for that. That’s what I want.” What enables Hollywood Liberals to continually attack and mock Christian values and present immoral and even abhorent content? Money. Is some of it your money? Christian, don’t be part of the problem. Read our article

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—This might be my favorite film of the year. I don’t appreciate foul language or extreme violence. However, when the movie ended, I wished I could’ve just hung out with these guys a little longer. There are so many discussion points, my family and I talked about it for days. Some say it’s too long and nothing happens. I can see how they might see it that way. But for a lot of us, there is so much to appreciate. MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD…

Too many details to discuss here, but I wondered why I felt good walking out of the theater after seeing such a ridiculously bloody display. Then I read a Christian review (don’t remember where). It spoke of how the ending is like what heaven will be like. All sad things will pass away (as if the Manson murders never happened). When Rick goes over to Tate’s home, we don’t see her, we hear her voice coming from behind the large gates. The large gates open, Rick enters, and we see Tate greet him wearing a white night gown/shirt. For the violence, I imagine that to be God’s vengeance.

Obviously, the film wasn’t made from a Christian worldview, but what was on screen still left us feeling hopeful about what is to come for us. Aside from that, the friendship of the two main characters was wonderful to see. They truly cared about each other the way men should. No envy, no jealousy, no resentment. Just mutual respect.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Lisa, age 56 (USA)
Neutral—Overall, I feel that this movie is authentic in the way the brothers have grown up since their father’s death. I was worried that this movie would hit too close to home for me (my sister and I lost our dad to cancer when we were kids), but the movie was emotionally authentic and kept the emphasis on meaning rather than tragedy. The movie, personally, meant something to me because of this and because of the ending. Some people say that this movie lacks the Pixar touch, but to me it was more meaningful than most of the others.

Because of them trying to contact the dead, the impersonation of a police officer, and the manticore’s mention of her girlfriend (if I hadn’t heard prior that this was a romantic pairing, I would’ve imagined this just meant a good friend), I don’t think that this sets the best example for very young children. But, children should also hear about these things first in a setting where it can be explained well by their parents.

The fantasy society is fun to see, the driving lesson is scary, and the animation is gorgeous as always. I’m sure I’ll watch it again when I can check out the DVD from the library. I saw it in a drive-in theater due to the coronavirus and this made all the car driving scenes scarier.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
E. H., age 28 (USA)
Negative—I think this is the worst movie I’ve ever seen—on many levels. I agree with the reviewer’s comments and deeply regret not checking them out prior to seeing the movie. If you want to focus your mind on what is True, Right, Noble, Excellent and Praiseworthy, do not see this movie!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: no opinion
Theresa Snowbarger, age 49 (USA)

PLEASE share your observations and insights to be posted here.

Secular Movie Critics
…Big, brash, ridiculous, too long, and in the end invigorating, the film is a grand playground for its director to fetishize old pop culture and bring his gleeful perversity to the craft of moviemaking…
Steve Pond, The Wrap
…a time-burning wallow in 1960s pop culture, fashions and the “magic of the movies.” It’s also misshapen and meandering, a self-indulgent Inglourious Basterdization of the infamous Manson Family murders. It rarely settles into a style or a tone that works. …
Roger Moore, Movie Nation
…bungles ending… It’s a shame all that goodness is undone by the film’s gonzo ending, an ultra-violent coup de theater… [2/4]
Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post
…As one might expect from Mr. Tarantino’s previous films, his new one is violent — extravagant violence is visited on men and women alike at several points — as well as tender, plus terrifically funny. Yet this virtuoso piece of storytelling also offers intricate instruction on the pervasiveness of violence in popular culture.…
Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal
…uneven, unwieldy in its structure and not without its flat patches. But it’s also a disarming and characteristically subversive love letter to its inspiration. …
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter
…Tarantino is at the top of his form … The byplay between DiCaprio and Pitt is delicious and finely drawn — you’d better believe Tarantino knows he’s dealing with two of our last old-school movie stars and sneakiest actors. …[4/4]
Ty Burr, The Boston Globe
…More evocative than provocative. But evocative is not nothing. …
Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
…There’s a gleeful toxicity here that will launch a thousand think-pieces—Pitt’s character is capital-P problematic, absolutely by design—but the transgressive thrill is undeniable, and the artistry mesmerisingly assured. … [5/5]
Robbie Collin, The Telegraph [UK]
…Imaginative and awful… Rancid, preposterous and hysterically over the top in ideas and execution …[2/4]
Rex Reed, The New York Observer
…a surprisingly funny and extremely melancholy hangout film, an elegy for a bygone era that reflects on how all art eventually loses its edge. …The conclusion is typical stuff from the director, mixing outrageous violence, slapstick humor, and visual panache…
David Sims, The Atlantic