Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt give a time capsule worthy bromance complete with twist ending.
If anyone’s up to capturing an entire decade, it’s Quentin Tarantino. His love for film and all it’s historical facets has given each of his pictures a worthy fanfare.
Perhaps none is more ambitious or obvious than Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Tarantino’s ninth and supposedly second-to-last film. The year of 1969 gets an homage like none other thanks to a star-studded look at a sensationalized, savvy Hollywood, complete with references galore.
Leonardo DiCaprio is Rick Dalton, a once celebrated leading man of the western show Bounty Law from the 50s, whose now steeped in a quarter life crisis. His stuntman, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), has been with him since the beginning, and is now mostly reserved to the sidelines, acting more as a friend than hired hand.
Their relationship feels lived in and familiar for a reason. It’s based on actor Burt Reynold’s own friendship with his stuntman, Hal Needham.
Pitt’s cool charm comes off so naturally, it’s as if he’s just playing himself up on screen. DiCaprio, meanwhile, stretches every inch of his acting muscle as an actor desperate to relive his glory days.
Their story is the heart of a Hollywood that’s crumbling around them.
1969, in many ways, was the somber, and bloody swan song to an era. The collapse of the hippie movement soon followed Woodstock, and sheer terror came with the Stonewall riots and the Manson murders.
Tarantino tackles the latter with an unrelenting ease that doesn’t seek to portray the Manson family in glossy cinematography like other depictions. Instead, they come across more like zombies than lost hippies.
Scenes where they appear huddled together are terrifying not because of what they could do, but because a darting look in their eye shows an intention.
In-between moments of this chaos and actor’s turmoil, Margot Robbie glides into the frame, hair bouncing. She plays Sharon Tate, neighbor to Dalton, along with her beau Roman Polanski.
Robbie gives a carefully refined portrayal of the late actress that seeks to show Tate’s loving personality in life rather than that of her death.
She doesn’t get much screen time, but when she does appear, she is mesmerizing and captures the essence of the 60s more than any other character.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood does feel more personal than the rest of Tarantino’s work. A huge fan of westerns growing up, Tarantino is able to show us to what made him fall in love with storytelling through his own crafted western in Bounty Law.
I’d be remiss not to mention the music that feels like a character in itself. When Pitt’s driving down the Sunset Strip, we hear every flavor: The Stones, Neil Diamond, Paul Revere and the Raiders, the list goes on.
There’s a line-up of heavy players, as is expected for any Tarantino film: Al Pacino, Bruce Dern and Luke Perry (his last film role before his death) all feature.
Oh, and how could I forget the feet.
You see a lot of them in this movie.
It was the height of hippies, after all.
There is so much stuffed into this two-and-a-half hour film, though, that it can’t possibly be broken down into an article’s worth of content.
In short, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood has you yearning for the sounds and sights of a bygone era, while making note of the impending horror that lasts until the credits; something that fits right into Tarantino’s wheelhouse.