Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
It’s been four long, painful years since Quentin Tarantino’s Hateful Eight, and the release of his newest picture, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, could not be more highly anticipated, particularly once confirmation of prestigious, award-laden cast members such as Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Margot Robbie, Al Pacino, Kurt Russell and many more began streaming out. Consider the pressure for the director. But Tarantino is accustomed to such burdens and our mounting expectation is something that he relishes. All that he has to be sure of is that he delivers – and Quentin Tarantino has done it again.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood follows two paths in 1969 Los Angeles. Firstly, that of actor Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) and his stuntman Cliff Booth (Pitt), as they traipse around Hollywood studios doing all the bit work they can get. The spaghetti westerns upon which the actor built his career are drying up, meaning for Cliff work is also becoming sparse. Now wavering in his belief of his own talents, Rick, finding himself notoriously type cast as the “heavy” or “bad guy”, embarks on a turbulent internal struggle coping with the reality of a downward-spiralling career. Cliff goes on his own journey of discovery, bringing him to Spahn Ranch and into the company of the frightening Manson Family.
Meanwhile, Rick’s Cielo Drive neighbour, Sharon Tate (Robbie), is establishing her own acting career and family with Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha). Partying and living the Hollywood lifestyle, Sharon is unknowing of the dangers surrounding her, and it is these threats that run through the plot with a fine thread, as the Manson clan plot their vengeance on those that raised and influenced them.
From the opening credits, it’s clear that Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is going to be one of the classic Tarantino movies that possesses style, elegance and honesty, whilst also slowly and maliciously blending a cocktail of suspense, restlessness and sense of impending doom in the background. With perfect cinematic splendour of the highest degree, the film takes place over the course of two days, six months apart, and encapsulates divinely the final days of that golden age of Hollywood before that one fateful night.
Pitt and DiCaprio are electric when on screen together, with a visceral brotherly companionship where each looks out for the other. Independently, both are just as fantastic, commanding each scene regardless of how many lines there are. Through his various onscreen roles, the sensational DiCaprio embodies over ten different characters over the course of the movie’s 161 minutes in a brilliantly executed experiment of metanarrative, which sees film scenes acted before our eyes, and the story jump back and forth with interjections from the past, including Rick Dalton’s famous movie lines and Cliff’s recent exhilarating encounter with Bruce Lee.
Having two such accomplished and engaging actors at the forefront helps the typically slow-burning plot eat through the wick at a consistently riveting pace. Margot Robbie plays the ill-fated Sharon Tate with truth, appreciation and respect, something that Tarantino also acknowledges by not superimposing the actress into any of Tate’s own movie clips. A touching tribute to say the least, whilst the subtle undertones of the Manson Family rage on underneath.
The laughs, as always, keep on coming, even during the climactic ending that was never going to disappoint whether viewers are fans of Tarantino’s style or not. Those who appreciate the director’s flair for flamboyant conclusions are in for a treat with one of the most mesmerising sequences cinema has ever seen.
Visually and cinematically, the film is a masterpiece, showing that Tarantino has clearly mastered his craft, reaching a level where he can do whatever he likes, whenever he likes and it simply works. The camerawork is delightful, shooting in a number of versatile situations on a variety of types of film to fit the scene. Racing through the streets of LA in an old MG has never felt so real, and the 1960s colour palette, soundtrack, interior design and costumes fix the tone and environment seamlessly within the decade. The costume department clearly had an absolute field day and it is evident that the director had a hankering to write and work on a film of this period and genre.
In the United States, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood has given Quentin Tarantino his biggest opening weekend ever, grossing over $40m. Safe to say, his box office record in UK cinemas may well be shattered come the end of opening weekend thanks to this whopping piece of cinematic gold.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is released nationwide on 14th August 2019.
Watch the trailer for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood here: