If you ask many film fans, or even many laypersons, what their favorite Quentin Tarantino movie is, there’s a good chance they’ll say Pulp Fiction. The auteur’s 1994 tale of the intersecting lives of criminals in Los Angeles is his calling card and the film in his oeuvre that is the most firmly engrained in pop culture. Speaking about how his 9th film, the Los Angeles-set Once Upon a Time in Hollywood compares to Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino said:
This film is the closest thing I’ve done to Pulp Fiction. [It’s 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.
Long before we saw the first trailer for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, the film was being described as Pulp Fiction-esque and Quentin Tarantino affirmed the comparisons in his recent interview with Esquire. While all of Quentin Tarantino’s films bear certain hallmarks of the director’s style, his new film will be the closest thing he has done to Pulp Fiction, a tease that is sure to delight fans of that movie.
What this comparison should mean in practice, beyond the similarity of both films being set in Los Angeles, is that like Pulp Fiction, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will be an ensemble film with multiple characters. Some of those characters are based on real people and others are born entirely from Tarantino’s imagination.
Like Pulp Fiction, these vignettes of the character’s individual stories in 1969 Los Angeles are seemingly disparate until the characters and their stories collide in unexpected and consequential ways. We don’t know how this will come about yet in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, but it brings to mind Jules and Vincent eating breakfast at the diner Honey Bunny and Pumpkin rob or Butch catching Vincent unawares while on the toilet.
This quality definitely adds a bit of excitement and tension to Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, because while we are watching the film we will wonder what the overarching story is and what the circumstances are that will bring characters together. The answer to that must be pretty wild and exciting considering how Quentin Tarantino has requested that nobody spoil the film in their reviews.
In addition to the Pulp Fiction comparison, Quentin Tarantino also calls Once Upon a Time in Hollywood his most personal film, comparing it to what Roma was for Alfonso Cuarón. Roma depicted the Mexico City of Alfonso Cuarón’s childhood and the film itself was semi-autobiographical.
While Once Upon a Time in Hollywood isn’t autobiographical in quite that way (presumably six-year-old Quentin Tarantino never had a run-in with the Manson family) the film is depicting the Los Angeles the director grew up in. The Los Angeles of Quentin Tarantino’s youth shaped him and meant a lot to him and thus his new film is reflective of that, acting as a love letter to the city and that time period.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood opens in theaters on July 26. Check out our 2019 release schedule to keep track of that and all of this summer’s biggest movies.