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Film Review: Once Upon A Time In…Hollywood

Director:    Quentin Tarantino

Cast:    Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Dakota Fanning, Damon Herriman, Julia Butters, Emile Hirsch, Lena Dunham, Luke Perry, Al Pacino, Nicholas Hammond, Kurt Russell, Bruce Dern, James Marsden, Michael Madsen, Tim Roth, Zoe Bell, Timothy Olyphant, Mike Moh, Damien Lewis

Rating:    MA

Running Time:    161

Australian Distributor:      Sony Pictures Releasing

Quentin Tarantino’s last two films were westerns, both a tribute to his favourite genre, the spaghetti western. He’s now back with another tribute, this time to Sergio Leone, plus his favourite film decade and town, the 60s in Hollywood. Specifically 1969, the year that many people have said changed the Hollywood movie industry. 

Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Rick Dalton, a TV and movie actor who is beginning to slide.  At the moment, he is guest-starring on younger actors’ shows, with his old stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) chauffeuring him about and gophering for him. His one wise move was buying property, a house on Cielo Drive, just next door to a house owned by the exciting film director Roman Polanski and his new wife Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie).

Dalton meets with Marvin Sharz (Al Pacino), an agent who wants to persuade him to head for spaghetti westerns as a way of reviving his career. Dalton is offended, believing that he’s above that kind of film and doesn’t want to work outside of Hollywood. Dalton decided to accept another villainous role in a western show starring James Stacy (Timothy Olyphant). He also tried to get his buddy Cliff some stunt work on the new show.   

But Cliff’s reputation around town isn’t good, so when Dalton’s at work, he drives around Hollywood and one day meets a hippie named Pussycat (Margaret Qualley). Pussycat belongs to Charles Manson’s cult.

Tarantino introduces a bunch of famous people at that period of time including Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) who happens to be a neighbour of Dalton’s. The entire film is kind of a build-up to the murder of Tate’s and her friends by the Manson cult members.

Typical for Tarantino, every part is meticulously well cast, from Damian Lewis as a convincing Steve McQueen in one scene, to Timothy Olyphant and the late Luke Perry as Lancer stars James Stacy (whose ultimate fate is one of the darkest, unknown chapters in Hollywood history) and Wayne Maunder. Then there’s Margaret Qualley as the Manson Family member who takes a liking to Booth, Kurt Russell, and Zoe Bell as stunt coordinators, Al Pacino as a hilarious Hollywood agent, and tons of cameos from Tarantino regulars and cult icons.

Performances by DiCaprio and Pitt were great. DiCaprio really embraced the has-been actor role and he’s hilarious in most scenes he’s in. Pitt puts in one of his best ever performances. Some of his scenes are very funny, including one where he has a tussle with Bruce Lee (Mike Moh).  Margot Robbie’s role as Sharon Tate, on the other hand, was more like a fantasy role. It’s hard to explain but maybe because Tate’s career was cut short because of her murder, and we don’t know much about her, it could be the reason why Tarantino wrote the character this way.   

Visually, this is another stunning film shot by Tarantino’s regular cinematographer Robert Richardson. Tarantino is one of the few filmmakers left in Hollywood that still prefers to shoot in film, so this picture has that old school look to it.

This is an extraordinarily rich film, full of stunning, packed images that will be paused and marvelled at upon home release. It is also rich with themes and metaphors that enjoyably bubble around in your head days after you’ve watched it.

Everything about Once Upon A Time In…Hollywood is top shelf.  It might be one of Tarantino’s last films but it’s his best since Pulp Fiction. At any rate, it might be the quickest two hours and forty minutes you’ll ever spend in a movie theatre.



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