Tarantino’s 9th film is astonishing.
If you could travel back in time to any era, what and where would you choose? For me, the answer has always been ’60’s America. Think about it; Woodstock, Martin Luther King’s iconic speech, the assassination of JFK, Beatlemania, etc.
In my opinion, ’60’s America literally had everything you could want from a decade. If only we could go back and experience it. Well, it certainly feels you like you can experience it in Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino’s 9th film.
Set in 1969, Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood follows the lives of TV actor, Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), and his best friend, chauffeur and long-term stunt-double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), as they navigate their way through show-business, coming to terms with the life-span of their respective careers through an ever-changing Hollywood landscape.
Oh yeah, and all that takes place at the time of the Manson murders. Vintage QT, right? Tucked away in the Hollywood Hills, Dalton’s next-door neighbours, Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) and Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) represent everything he isn’t; big-time players in a city and an industry that treats movie stars as Gods. As Dalton keeps on striving to finally reach that tier, with various guest TV roles and landing the role of the villain in a Sam Wanamaker movie, it’s painfully obvious that Tate has got there ahead of him.
Before I go any further, I think it’s important for me to state that I genuinely believe that in Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood, Tarantino has produced one of, if not, the best of his films. On the surface of it, that sounds like a bold claim, but hear me out.
It’s rare to see a film that is 161 minutes long, which leaves you wanting even more. Honestly, even if the film was another 120 minutes long I would still have been hooked. Tarantino has delivered a masterpiece in storytelling; beautifully showing us a story of friendship, ambition, and heartbreak, whilst paying homage to the craft of filmmaking.
One of the things I loved most about the film, is how Tarantino doesn’t over-do the tragedy of Tate murders, and actually, if you badly timed a trip to the toilet, you wouldn’t even know Charles Manson had been acknowledged. Tarantino has ensured that this isn’t his story. It’s Rick, Cliff and Sharon’s, all pursuing their dreams and lives in Hollywood and all their stories are told beautifully.
That’s not to say that the Manson ‘Family’ aren’t involved though, believe me, they really are, and the sequence in the George Spahn ranch with Cliff and Pussycat (Margaret Qualley) is intense and brilliantly staged. You get a real sense of how Manson’s followers felt about the outside world and how devoted they were to their way of life. It’s a very eery sequence, but one you can’t take your eyes off.
Starring in that sequence is Brad Pitt, who in my eyes at least, outshines every other cast member in the film with his performance as Cliff. There are so many questions I have about this character because the whole film just leaves you wanting to know more and more about him. Pitt’s cheeky and intimidating performance as Cliff is just one of the highlights from the excellent cast.
Margot Robbie’s performance as Sharon Tate encapsulates Tate’s fun, bubbly and innocent persona brilliantly and is wonderfully uplifting and melancholic in equal measure, leaving you with a smile on your face whenever she’s on screen. Similarly Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance as Rick Dalton will leave you in hysterics, but you’d also be forgiven for feeling sorry for a character who quite clearly does not belong in the new Hollywood; harbouring hate towards the Hippie movement and just not showing, or understanding, the dedication towards acting that the hungrier and younger actors clearly have.
There are also some very enjoyable performances from the Manson ‘family’, including; Maragret Qualley as Pussycat, Austin Butler as Tex Watson and Dakota Fanning as Squeaky. Mike Moh also deserves a big mention for his brilliant portrayal as Bruce Lee, in a sequence in which we see Lee take on Cliff on the set of The Green Hornet.
It’s rare to see a film live up to the hype that surrounds it. When Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood premiered at Cannes earlier this year, some critics boldly claimed that it was Tarantino’s best film since Pulp Fiction. Having watched it, I can see why. This film is a love-letter to LA, a beautiful homage to filmmaking and undoubtedly, one of Tarantino’s best.
There are so many things that make Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood special, but for me, you won’t see a more astonishing film this year. You’ll smile at the way ’60’s Hollywood has been brought back to life, you’ll love the soundtrack, you’ll admire the precision in the storytelling and you’ll rejoice the sheer madness at the end.
Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood is released by Sony Pictures in UK cinemas on August 14th.