Quentin Tarantino has always said he will make just ten movies. Whatever the reasons he has given, he appears to be sticking to it and so this, Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood, is the writer/director’s penultimate movie.
And it’s a long-one, some two hours and 41 minutes long in fact. This may not be the Tarantino film some will expect from the writer/director. It’s not filled with gangsters, guns and bloodshed.
It’s a slow crawl that at times can feel like it’s relying so heavily on its lead, Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Revenant“, “Inception”), that you’re surprised the weight of it all doesn’t get too much.
But it doesn’t, not at all, in fact DiCaprio absolutely shines, playing washed up actor Rick Dalton, a former TV star of a western, now consigned to playing bit-parts in other people’s TV shows.
Dalton takes his sidekick/stunt-double/handyman Cliff Booth, Brad Pitt (“War Machine“, “The Big Short“), everywhere with him, trying to land the man stunt-work when he can. Though this is tricky when most of Hollywood tries to avoid Booth because of a certain rumour…
When producer Marvin Schwarzs, Al Pacino (“Hangman“, “The Godfather”), gives Dalton another shot at the limelight, he begrudgingly takes it and heads to Italy to star in a number of Spaghetti Westerns, taking Booth with him of course. It’s in Italy where Dalton also meets his wife.
As Dalton is working on James Stacy’s, Timothy Olyphant (“Justified (TV)”, “A Perfect Getaway”), TV series, Booth is driving around and catches the eye of a hippy at the side of the road. After a couple of chance encounters like this, he eventually stops to give her a lift which, as it turns out, is to the old studio where he used to film his TV show.
This is now home to a whole bunch of hippy-types, this is the Manson Family, and Booth manages to piss them off. If that wasn’t bad enough, later, as four from the Manson Family are heading to where Sharon Tate, Margot Robbie (“Slaughterhouse Rulez“, “I, Tonya“), lives, Dalton also manages to piss them off, shouting, whilst drunk, about their loud car.
What Tarantino has done with Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood, is what we already know Tarantino is so good at; spinning multiples stories from individual characters all together and setting up a wonderful pay-off whereby they all converge at the end.
Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood is no different, it just feels different, it certainly feels like it takes longer to get to the convergence scenes.
That’s not to say that what goes before isn’t entertaining, or well made, or well-acted. It’s all of those things. Pitt and DiCaprio work beautifully together, both men shining in their roles, DiCaprio in particular is stellar.
It’s very entertaining, there are plenty of laughs, both dark and otherwise, and it’s as well made as we expect from Tarantino. Sure, there’ll be a few things you’ll notice in the movie, they’ve always been there, but with the recent press surrounding the director, you’ll notice them more, but they don’t (or shouldn’t) detract.
Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood is good, really good, and the final scene, where things get violent very quickly, is where some Tarantino fans will rejoice as this is what they “expect” from the director, some ignoring the brilliant work he does with dialogue, characterisation etc.
If all you watch Tarantino films for is violence, bloodshed and swearing, this isn’t going to be the film for you. However, if you watch his films for the fantastic performances he garners from his actors, from the great dialogue, the dark humour, then, whilst this isn’t his best, this is one you will love.
14th August 2019
THE QUICK SELL
A faded television actor and his stunt double strive to achieve fame and success in the film industry during the final years of Hollywood's Golden Age in 1969 Los Angeles.