Quentin Tarantino’s ninth feature film is being heralded as one of his best. However, Margot Robbie’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood dialogue is something that we absolutely must discuss. The movie follows Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) a struggling television actor who is no longer garnering the same roles or prestige that he once was. His sole confidant and best friend is Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt)–his stunt double and pseudo assistant who lives to pump up Rick’s ego. Of course, because it’s Tarantino–the film also weaves and bends the Manson murders and slain actress Sharon Tate’s story into the movie.
In the film, Robbie stars as the late actress who was murdered when she was nine months pregnant by members of the Manson family on August 9, 1969. When the film was announced, Robbie was billed as one of the leads along with Pitt and DiCaprio. A massive talent, The Wolf of Wall Street actress always stuns in every role that she’s given. Though she’s sensational in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, she’s not given much to do.
The runtime for Tarantino’s latest flick is a robust 2 hours and 45 mins. However, Robbie is only seen on screen for approximately 30 minutes of that time and she speaks even less. Here is a (spoiler-free) rough breakdown of her entire appearance on screen.
1. The film opens on Feb. 8, 1969– Robbie’s Sharon Tate is seen in the airport with her dog and husband Roman Polanski.
2. Sharon and Roman pull up to their home and get out of the car. The dialogue here is muted
3. Sharon is later seen driving to the Playboy Mansion with her husband.
4. At the Playboy Mansion, she dances and sings with a group of women–but Sharon never audibly speaks.
5. Days later, she’s seen playing records and packing her bags for a trip while chatting with a friend. She briefly greets a visitor at her front door.
6. Time passes and Sharon is seen picking up a woman hitchhiking on the streets of L.A. She and the woman speak in the car. Once she arrives at her destination–Sharon and the woman part ways.
7. Sharon enters a bookstore to purchase a gift for her husband–she speaks to the bookshop owner.
8. Later, Sharon is seen walking around Los Angeles. She stumbles upon a movie theater where her film, The Wrecking Crew is playing. She interacts with the box office attendant and the usher in the theater.
9. In the movie theater, Sharon watches herself on the screen–repeating her lines of the dialogue from the movie while listening to the audience’s reaction.
10. The timeline speeds up–now a very pregnant Sharon is seen interacting with friends and loved ones. She shows a friend her baby’s nursery and they have lunch.
11. Later she and a group of friends go out for dinner before returning home.
12. After returning home, Sharon changes into her bedclothes before listening to some records.
13. In Robbie’s final scene in the film, she is seen interacting with two other major characters in the movie.
As we said, she’s barely in this. In fact, we see Robbie as Tate much more than we hear her speak.
When the film debuted at Cannes Film Festival earlier this summer. A journalist from the New York Times asked Tarantino about Robbie’s lack of dialogue. She said, “She was with Leonardo in Wolf of Wall Street, I, Tonya. This is a person with great acting talent and yet you haven’t given her many lines in the movie,” she continued. “I guess that was a deliberate choice on your part. And I just wanted to know why that was that we don’t hear her speak that much.”
Tarantino said, “Well, I just reject your hypothesis.”
However, because of the backlash, it’s been rumored that the filmmaker went back in and edited the movie so that Robbie would appear in two more minutes of the film. Obviously, that still isn’t a lot.
Tarantino later told IndieWire, “There was a little bit more of her; everybody lost sequences…It’s not her story, it’s Rick’s story. It’s not even Cliff’s. And Tate is an angelic presence throughout the movie, she’s an angelic ghost on earth, to some degree, she’s not in the movie, she’s in our hearts.”
Robbie’s performance is beautiful and heartfelt, we just wish that her character was given the opportunity to actually speak for herself. Appearing in only one-fifth of the film seems like a complete waste of her talent.
Though Tate is no longer her to speak about her own story, Robbie did say of playing the character,
The tragedy ultimately was the loss of innocence, and to really show those wonderful sides of her I think could be adequately done without speaking. I did feel like I got a lot of time to explore the character even without dialogue, specifically. Which is an interesting thing because I often do look to the interaction with other characters to inform me on the character. Rarely do I get an opportunity to spend so much time on my own as a character. … That was actually an interesting thing to do for me as an actor, I appreciated the exercise.
Luckily Robbie has no less than eight forthcoming projects on her docket including returning to Harley Quinn and her role as Barbie in the Greta Gerwing film of the same name.