A faded television star and his stunt double strive to achieve fame and fortune during the final years of Hollywood’s Golden Age. What happens next will shock the entertainment world to its core.
Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood is set in 1969 Los Angeles, where everything is changing. TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) are struggling to adapt to an industry they don’t recognize anymore.
It doesn’t help matters that Rick’s next door neighbours are Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) and Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) meaning he has Hollywood’s finest staring him in the face each and every day.
If you’re a fan of Tarantino’s work, then you won’t be surprised to hear that his new movie touches on martial arts, westerns and second world war adventures. Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood is so much more than a film about the movie industry, it also delves into the Manson family crimes that rocked the world.
Former wild west vigilante TV series lead Rick Dalton has turned to bourbon and bad guy bit-parts to get by. With each guest shot he does, the more he becomes aware that his co-stars are besting him. So it becomes the job of his confidant and former stuntman Cliff Booth to help him drown his sorrows and listen to his woes. As the film narration puts it Cliff is “more than a buddy, less than a wife.”
As with all Tarantinos this movie chronicles a shocking series of events, taking its time to build up to the climax in true Spaghetti Western style. Our villains come in the form of the Manson family who have taken over an old movie set ‘Spahn Ranch’ in California.
On one of his days off from driving Rick around Cliff picks up a hippy hitchhiker named Pussycat and gives her a ride to the ranch of his old costar George Spahn. Little does he know that he’s just inadvertently stumbled upon one of the deadliest cults around, and set in motion a series of events that will end in bloodshed. What follows, as they say, is history with a dash of artistic licence for good measure.
Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood is unlike any Tarantino to date, both in narrative and pace. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still the inevitable pressure build up to a fight that’s drawn out to death, but the movie as a whole fails to deliver the same brilliance and instant cult status as its predecessors.
The story is based on real life events with some exceptions. If you’re familiar with Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski’s story then you’ll soon notice some stark differences. You may also spot Damian Lewis as a curious version of Steve McQueen and Michael Moh as Bruce Lee. It’s also been said that Rick and Cliff are loosely based on Burt Reynolds and stuntman turned director, Hal Needham.
The eagle eyed among you may notice that real footage of Sharon Tate was used in the film rather then get Robbie to recreate her scenes. So why was this? In an interview with IMDB Tarantino and Robbie explained that they were keen to give Tate her own screen time.
The real joy for me came from the onscreen chemistry between DiCaprio and Pitt, a combination we haven’t witnessed before, in feature length at least.
Tarantino’s tribute to the final moments of Hollywood’s golden age is shocking and charming in equal measure. While Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood may not be his best movie to date, it’s still worth a watch.
By Ruth Walker
While you’re here, why not check out Mark Jankowski’s rundown of every Tarantino (bar this one), from worst to best.