Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood (2019)
Written and Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Margot Robbie, Leonardo Di Caprio, Brad Pitt, Al Pacino, Michael Madsen, Emil Hirsch, Kurt Russell, Luke Perry
The god of cinema decided to make another one so of course I had to go see it. Movie buffs like me live for days like this, when a legendary filmmaker releases his new masterpiece upon an unsuspecting universe. As you can see, with every Tarantino film there comes a certain expectation of greatness for me. It goes without saying that I am a full blown Tarantino fan since day one, when I first saw Pulp Fiction back in ‘94 and felt a bucket of cold ice being poured down my cinematic back. But time has passed and as Tarantino himself has said, directors do not make their best movies in their heyday. And Tarantino is close to what he calls his ‘heyday’. But whatever, I don’t subscribe to that idea, I mean, Scorcese is still amazing and he's close to hitting 80 as I write this. It’s true, that directing a film is a “young person’s game” but Tarantino isn’t that old yet. He still has it in him to hammer out a few good ones. So, was this one of his “good ones”?
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is as the title suggest, a huge love letter to Hollywood, filmmaking, actors and life in L.A. during the end of the 60’s. We follow Rick Dalton, an actor who’s afraid of being a has been and his stunt man Cliff Booth. Together they go from gig to gig hoping that it isn’t their last. Somehow, they end up getting entangled with Charles Manson and his gang of zelot followers. The rest is fun times in La La Land, Tarantino style.
I’ve noticed this thing Tarantino’s been doing with his films. He takes a moment in history and totally changes it as if saying “this is how I wish it had happened!”. Remember how he burned Hitler and all his cronies in Inglorious Bastards (2009)? Of course we all know that’s not how it happened, but that’s how Tarantino wished it had. Well, Tarantino does the same thing here with Sharon Tate’s murder at the hands of Charles Manson’s followers. It was a crime of pure hate and stupidity. Tate was pregnant and two weeks away from giving birth to her new child when these crazy Manson zombies killed her and her guests. Tarantino feels this was a great wrong, Tate was a beloved actress, she was loved for her looks and her talent and was a star on the rise. Tarantino decides to tell us the events that occurred that night, but in a completely different way, using Poetic Justice as his weapon.
Along the way, the film muses on the hardships of being an actor and trying to survive in Hollywood. What’s it like to have that pressure of delivering a great performance? What is the actors duty on a film or a television show? Tarantino also takes us on a stroll down Los Angeles 1969, with all the cinema marquees and automobiles from that era that you’d expect. I thought it was awesome how he brought that era to life, no digital effects to be seen I might add. A lot of scenes in the film are of characters just driving around L.A. streets so we can absorb the era. Granted, this film isn’t as profound as Inglorious Basterds (2009), there’s a decidedly lighter tone to the film, like a fun breezy vibe, a feeling enhanced by Brad Pitt’s character Cliff Booth, always smiling, his character serves as a counter part to the darkness of one of the films themes, Sharon Tate’s murder at the hands of the Manson Family.
Tarantino, Di Caprio and Pitt get together once again and I have to say the results are fantastic. Di Caprio delivers another amazing performance to his repertoire. I’ve always thought that Di Caprio is one of the best actors of his generation from day one when he blew me away in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? (1993) and to be honest he continues to do so to this day. Love his performance on Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood. A flawed, imperfect character struggling with his craft, worried about becoming useless in life. Brad Pitt turns in another loopy sort of happy go lucky stoner type, where nothing fades him, always the cool dude. His character reminded me of that stoner guy he played in True Romance (1993), it felt as if that character had grown up and become a stunt man in Hollywood. There are lots of cameos sprinkled all through out the film, we get Al Pacino playing a film producer and Kurt Russell as a stunt coordinator, in a way, it felt like he was perhaps playing the same character he played in Tarantino’s Death Proof (2007)? We also get a lot of Tarantino regulars like Zoe Bell, Bruce Dern and Michael Madsen, sorry, no Samuel Jackson this time around.
This is Tarantino’s 9thfilm and there’s been a lot of talk about Tarantino saying that his next one, his tenth film, will be his last. Quite honestly I think they will milk that angle to death for his next film and make a profit out of it being “Tarantino’s 10thand final film”, but I can almost guarantee that wont be the case. Tarantino’s love for cinema is too strong, a fact that’s evident by what we see in Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood. Tarantino has still got it and I don’t think it’s going anywhere, not even after he makes his 10thfilm. But that’s just me and I could be horribly wrong so don’t quote me on that. As for Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, it’s a fun ride down the trippy 60’s. It’s a fun time at the movies that explores a dark chapter in Hollywood history while also exploring in a very entertaining way what it means to produce, act and direct films. A film buffs dream this movie is.
Rating: 5 out of 5.