A love letter to Hollywood
A faded television actor and his stunt double strive to achieve fame and success in the film industry in 1969 LA during the final years of Hollywood's Golden Age. Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Review by CAMERON BLACKSHAW
ONCE Upon a Time in Hollywood feels like the film Quentin Tarantino has always wanted to make. With its myriad of pop culture references, western genre tropes and subtle nods to the rest of the Tarantino-verse, Quentin’s ninth film is his most personal yet. It is only in 2019, this far into his illustrious and celebrated career, that he was able to garner the resources needed to create his stunningly immersive vision of tinsel town in 1969. His wealth of cinematic knowledge and filmmaking experience is plain to see in every frame of the picture and his raw talent helped him create an unforgettable moviegoing experience.
The film revolves around Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), a once famous western television star and Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), Dalton’s ever-faithful stuntman and best friend, as they navigate their way through the entertaining obstacles of making a living off movies and television in 1960s LA.
DiCaprio and Pitt are both in top form here, delivering a buddy performance that will be remembered for generations.
The no-nonsense, slightly terrifying yet charming Booth is always there to help his paranoid and alcoholic actor friend, played with subtle brilliance by DiCaprio.
The film’s third key player is real-life actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) who we lovingly follow through Hollywood as she begins to appreciate her stardom.
The casting of the Australian Robbie in the role of Tate was a risky one that certainly paid off; she seems to embody the late actress in all her beauty, grace and talent.
In a similar fashion to Pulp Fiction, Tarantino places his characters in entertaining vignettes which make up Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’s plot. What is apparent early on is Tarantino’s focus on comedy. With laugh-out-loud scenes such as Booth’s fight with Bruce Lee and Dalton’s alcohol-driven rant with himself, the film is certainly Tarantino’s funniest.
Even the shockingly violent and bloody climax had half of the theatre in stitches given Tarantino’s witty dialogue and cartoonish characters.
The film is a cinephile’s dream with its cast of Hollywood legends such as Roman Polanski and Steve McQueen, the many references to both film and television of the period and the amusing insights into the film-making world of Hollywood itself.
Tarantino’s Hollywood in ’69 is lovingly rendered on-screen and is one of the most detailed and rich historical settings seen on film in recent years. Credit must be given to the set designers, costume designers, prop department and art team.
The way the film is shot is also refreshing due to the pure variety Tarantino and cinematographer Robert Richardson manage to achieve. They blend shooting aspects of different genres and technical wizardry to great effect.
At times, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood can seem a little self-indulgent. Tarantino revels in his own recognisable and (in)famous style of filmmaking as well as the world from which his love of cinema grew. However, it feels more like a lap of honour for the most significant American filmmaker of the last 30 years than a show of arrogance. Expertly directed by a master of the craft, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a film destined to be seen on the big screen that no one should miss out on.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (18)
Running time 2hr 41min