“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is the ninth from from writer/director Quentin Tarantino, the film genius behind “Pulp Fiction”, “Kill Bill” and “Django Unchained”. Taking place in 1969 Hollywood, the story follows Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), a western television star trying to achieve success as a film actor. Alongside Rick is his stunt double and personal driver Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) who may or may not have killed his own wife.
Quentin Tarantino is one of the most brilliant screenwriters working today and is well-known for connecting multiple storylines together in a cohesive, tension-building manner. We find him doing that same thing with “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” when we find out that Rick Dalton lives next door to Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), an actress who was murdered by some of Charles Manson’s followers in 1969. When Cliff follows a teenage girl to Spahn’s ranch, things start to collide. The film takes place over three days, February 8th and 9th and then a six month jump to the infamous day in Hollywood’s history.
Don’t let the Sharon Tate plot-line fool you. Tarantino likes to rewrite history much like the way he did in “Inglorious Basterds”. His latest movies tend to be fantasized versions of history, and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is no exception.
While the plot summary makes it seem as though it’ll be incredibly violent, Tarantino’s latest is actually one of his tamer films in terms of violence (although when the violence does show up it is brutal). Instead, the film relies heavily on dialogue and humor. Like many Tarantino films, the humor is plentiful. Tarantino has a specific style of dialogue that shows itself here, reminding many of the humor from “Pulp Fiction”. It has a sense of light-heartedness to it, that makes the subject matter much more enjoyable to watch.
Robert Richardson has been Tarantino’s cinematographer since “Inglorious Basterds” and has done no less of a job with each film. In fact, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is undoubtably Tarantino’s most beautiful looking movie. However, in addition to having a talented cameraman, what makes the visuals so fantastic was Tarantino’s decision to transform the streets of Hollywood to match the exact look the city had when Tarantino when just a kid in 1969.
As always, Leonardo DiCaprio blows it out of the park with his latest performance coming off of previously starring in “The Revenant” which gave him his well-deserved Oscar win. Brad Pitt gives one of his best performances as Cliff Booth and Margot Robbie performs perfectly, despite her having less screen time than the two leads.
The film also stars Al Pacino, Margaret Qualley, Luke Perry, Kurt Russel, Timothy Olyphant, Damon Herriman, Mike Moh, Bruce Dern, Damian Lewis, Lena Dunham, Austin Butler, Dakota Fanning and Emile Hirsch as an assortment of actual Hollywood actors, producers, and/or crazy Charles Manson followers.
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” may be known as a classic in the future, similar to the way we now see “Pulp Fiction”. It’s one of Tarantino’s most brilliantly written films and the performances are some of the best of the year so far. Go out to the cinemas and see this one as soon as you can.