In all honesty, this last summer for movies, in general, was a disaster. Hoards of generic action blockbusters and sappy dramas flooded the theaters with their waters of mediocrity. However, in this sea of darkness, two rays of sunshine beamed through, giving movie lovers something to grab onto. These two movies include Ari Aster’s “Midsommar,”, and Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”.
From hilarious, disturbing, and downright beautiful to look at, these two movies defined the summer of 2019. I vividly remember my viewing experiences in the theater for both of these movies, as they were both these unique spectacles that stand out in a pile of blockbuster trash.
In this review, I will be tackling each of these films individually, and try to persuade you to watch these movies as soon as possible!
“Midsommar” (dir. Ari Aster): 8/10
Last year, director Ari Aster blew myself and many others away with his masterpiece of a debut motion picture: “Hereditary.” This ended up being my favorite movie of last year in how the film was horror on the surface, but a dark family drama at its core. “Hereditary” scared me, disturbed me, and left me utterly speechless by the end.
By the time I heard Aster was going to make another horror film with drama elements, it is safe to say that my whole world was about to get a little more brighter. I was ready to feel like utter garbage by the end and have my emotions destroyed, and “Midsommar” didn’t disappoint.
The film centers around the main character Dani and her boyfriend Christian (both played brilliantly by Florence Pugh and Jack Reynor respectively), two college students living healthy college lives. After some Dani runs into some “trouble” with her family, she decides to go on a trip to Sweden with Christian and some of his friends. On this trip, their plan is to reside with a Swedish cult group to do hallucinogenic drugs and experience some new culture. However, this cult has some more devious intentions…
This plot alone can seem like it has been done before a million times over, and to be honest, cult movies are a huge red flag for me that a film will be cliche. However, “Midsommar” uses themes of grief and relationship as the main attraction of the film, while keeping the cult aspect of the film as a cherry on top. In this case, this movie is essential for people who love movies that dive deep into their characters while keeping action or horror to a psychological level.
Speaking of characters, Dani might be one of the most complex and interesting main characters I have seen in a movie for a while. I won’t spoil anything, but her character arch is hauntingly beautiful, and the way she interacts with the cult is fascinating. To add another cherry on top, Florence Pugh’s performance as this character is pretty excellent.
As much as I love this movie, I still feel like some minor things hold it back from perfection. Some of the side characters can be one-dimensional and dry, making some of their screen time feel wasted. Speaking of screen time, this movie was way too long as it clocks in at around two hours and thirty minutes. If some of this movie’s unnecessary fat was cut down, this could have been flawless.
In retrospect, Midsommar is a brilliant film that is just hints away from hitting a masterpiece level. All of its little problems are worth it; however, as this film has a satisfying payoff, disturbing horror, and holds a fascinating character study.
“Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” (dir. Quentin Tarantino): 10/10
Tarantino, in all fairness, has been disappointing me lately with some of his more recent work. During his western faze, he made “The Hateful Eight” and “Django Unchained,” which are two of his more weaker movies in my opinion. When “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” was finally released, I was excited, but I kept my expectations low due to his last couple of movies being disappointments. Little did I know that “Hollywood” would become Tarantino’s best movie since “Kill Bill Vol. 1.”
In short, this film is about the travels of a struggling actor named Rick Dalton and his stunt double Cliff Booth during the late 1960s. In the midst of their storyline, the audience sees glimpses of real-life murdered actress Sharon Tate’s life leading up to her death by the hands of the Charles Manson cult.
Tarantino has not only created a very well crafted homage to 60s culture, but he has also created the best comedy of the year with the characters of Dalton and Booth. Leonardo DiCaprio (Dalton) and Brad Pitt (Booth) give some of the best on-screen chemistry I’ve ever seen, making the scenes with them together pure hilarity. If there was ever one thing this movie has, it’s STAR POWER!
Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate, although not in the film as much as the two leads, is the heart and soul of this movie. Every time she is on-screen, she resonates this joyful energy where at times, it is hard not to smile every time she is on-screen. Tarantino handled Tate’s image with grace, and Robbie provided an excellent performance and tribute.
The thing I also appreciate about this film is the little things such as the accuracy to the time period, the natural flowing dialogue, and even small cameos of some pretty famous actors (Kurt Russel, Timothy Olyphant, and even a posthumous Luke Perry). All of the sets and props are fine-tuned to seem as authentic to the time period as possible. Tarantino was always great at attention to detail, but with this film, that trait is near-perfect.
“Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” has something for everybody, whether it be older people looking for a 1960s nostalgia trip, hardcore Tarantino fans, or general audiences looking for just a “fun” movie. Tarantino is back and better than ever, and it’s too bad to see him retire after his next film.
If you are the type of person who thought this summer was pretty dry for great cinema, I hope this recap will give you an idea of what to watch. I hear so many people say that there are never any good movies anymore, and not doing research to actually go out and find something worthwhile. It is essential that we do this research so that we can support these unique films!
Although “Midsommar” is long gone from theaters, “Hollywood” is still showing, so you still have a chance to go catch it on the big screen! If only every movie this summer were as good as these two, but we don’t live in a perfect world.