once upon a time...in hollywood
DIRECTOR: quentin tarantino (django unchained, the hateful eight)
starring: leonardo di caprio, brad pitt, margot robbie, and timothy olyphant
REVIEWER: lyall carter
A faded TV actor and his stunt double embark on an odyssey to make a name for themselves during the Helter Skelter reign of terror in 1969 Los Angeles.
It won't surprise anyone to discover that once upon a time I worked at a cinema. Making the choc dip icecreams, mixing the lollie mix, selling tickets, and the 7 minutes we had to clean the entire cinema before the next showing were all a part of my duties.
But what I really wanted to do was be a projectionist. This was the twilight of the golden age of cinema where movies were played from actual film, not from a hard drive or a satellite link.
And Tarantino's Once Upon a Time... In Hollywood not only taps into that nostalgia for the good old days of Hollywood, but is an engrossing, thought provoking tale of triumph and loss. The first serious Oscar contender of 2019.
1969 Los Angeles. Everything is changing as TV star Rick Dalton and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth make their way around an industry they hardly recognize anymore.
That's about all I wanna say about the story here. Stay away from spoiler reviews and friends who've already seen it - the way the film unfolds is worth seeing without anyone ruining it for you. Also make sure you know the background of Sharon Tate and the Manson family murders too - that will help immensely.
Once Upon a Time... In Hollywood at its core is a buddy cop film. Its focus is mainly on the relationship between Di Caprio's Dalton and Pitt's Booth. This is where the richness lies not only in the performances but also in the narrative of the film. Both characters are striving to find their place in a landscape that's changing fast, but ultimately its Booth the stuntman that is the real hero of the piece instead of Dalton the silver screen hero.
There has been criticism in some 'always-gotta-have-an-issue-with-every-single-thing' parts of the internet that Margot Robbie's Tate doesn't get many lines, screen time, and that her story isn't crucial to the narrative of the film. At first glance her story isn't that important but its in the third act that you see Tarantino's plan all along. The payoff is glorious, fantastical, and pure Hollywood in the best way possible.
Although Once Upon a Time... In Hollywood is dripping with nostalgia, it doesn't overwhelm or dominate the story at all. Its the backdrop upon which Tarantino creates his funniest and most restrained (by his standards) film yet.
The film does have a hefty run time of nearly 3 hours with a weighty second act, but sitting back and looking at it there's nothing I'd cut out - its all solid gold.
Di Caprio is magnificent in the role of Dalton as he reels from one failed role to another, losing his grip on his profession and his life. Its at times hilarious and at other times tragic, infused with brutal, honest humanity.
Even though Di Caprio is just plain brilliant, Once Upon a Time... In Hollywood is Pitt's film. This is his best performance in years; nuanced, heartfelt, and heroic. He has to be the front runner for Best Supporting Actor come awards season.
Tarantino's Once Upon a Time... In Hollywood not only taps into that nostalgia for the good old days of Hollywood, but is an engrossing, thought provoking tale of triumph and loss. The first serious Oscar contender of 2019.