In 1960s Los Angeles, silver screen actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) struggle to keep pace with the swiftly evolving entertainment industry. The ninth feature-film in filmmaker Quentin Tarantino's lineup also stars Margot Robbie and Dakota Fanning.~Maggie Sadler
Viewing ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD is a visit to the 1960s – California/Hollywood style. Quentin Tarantino both wrote and directed this very long and lugubrious film that features some very fine acting but requires more than a dollop of patience to make it to the clever final scene.
The ‘idea’ is to recreate Hollywood and the months leading up to the entrance of Charles Manson’s tribe, as the infamous night in 1969 becomes a theatrical twist of facts. Leonardo DiCaprio is convincing as a has-been action star Rick Dalton and Brad Pitt is excellent as his stunt double Cliff Booth. Tarantino convincingly intertwines tidbits of the life of Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) and their third party Jay Sebring (Emil Hirsch), leading us to think the film will end with the Tate et al murders, but the road to that end is twisted and cleverly altered – like Hollywood. Other key actors include the very fine young Julia Butters, Al Pacino, Bruce Dern, Luke Perry, Timothy Olyphant, Margaret Qualley et al.
The movie is very long, spending an excessive amount of focus on cigarette smoking and the use of the ‘f word’ and endless cinematic production takes, but the overall effect of the film – in retrospect – is how clever Tarantino used these ‘flaws’ to bring the 60’s Hollywood to life. This may not be a film for everyone, but the piece works – it just needs patience.
I've been trying for over a week now to figure out exactly why Once Upon a Time in...Hollywood, the latest opus from auteur Quentin Tarantino, hit me the way it did. As someone who's never visited California or more specifically, Hollywood, and as someone who wasn't born until nearly two decades after the year in which the film takes place there were no personal nostalgic ties to what is very clearly a very nostalgic movie for its writer and director. I love the movies as in "the movies", sure, both for their fascinating behind the scenes processes as well as certain aspects of the business and I adore the idea of crafting this love letter to a bygone era that, in many ways, is reoccurring at this very moment even if the players are very different in the similarly circumstanced game. Any piece of work that provides insight into any aspect or era of the movie business is typically something I'm game for, granted, but even my affinity for films and television shows produced in the late fifties through to the end of the sixties is low and wouldn't justify the instinctively adoring reaction these impossibly detailed re-creations of such receive and no doubt deserve. There is plenty to like and appreciate within the massive two hour and forty-minute runtime Tarantino has assembled with his latest, but it is difficult to pinpoint what exactly it is that occurs within those (nearly) three hours that not only made me long once more for days consisting of more innocence, but also genuinely made me love what I was watching and want to remain in this world he was enchanting us with. After a week of mulling over the film though, of continuing to go back to certain scenes, countless performance moments and a hundred other facets I hadn't yet considered day after day the bigger picture came to be that it wasn't necessarily any one thing in what will from now on be referred to as OUaTiH, but more it was the effect each of these elements had on one another; the meticulous re-creation of 1969 informed and enhanced the performances of these fictional characters which were in turn heightened in the context of the film by the real-life events that Tarantino weaved through his narrative so as to create a sense of familiarity while still holding tight to the destination he's driving towards. Ultimately, this stands as one of Tarantino's best, most introspective works as it delivers the feeling one wants to leave the theater with after having experienced a Tarantino flick while the experience in and of itself is something of an unexpected and surprisingly soulful one.