Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is a film by Quentin Tarantino starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt. The film covers six months in 1969, but it’s filled with homages to (or outright re-creations of) old TV shows, old movies and old advertising jingles. Tarantino also recreates the Hollywood of 1969 by tracking down just about every neon sign that still exists from that era, and re-dressing stretches of Hollywood Boulevard to look like the street of his memories.
Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a hugely successful TV actor in the 1950s and early ’60s who wants to be more than that — but the industry is changing, and he’s not sure how he fits. (His options, basically, seem to be playing guest villains on TV series or heading to Italy to make sub-Sergio Leone spaghetti Westerns.) He starred in a black-and-white TV Western series called “Bounty Law” in the late ’50s and early ’60s, but whose career is now hitting the skids;
Rick’s stunt double, aide de camp and best friend, Cliff Booth, has no such fears; he knows exactly who he is and what he can do, and even a slumping career (since his fate is inextricably tied to Rick’s) doesn’t seem to faze the guy. Cliff, is a war veteran and rough-and-tumble stud bruiser who lives in a cruddy trailer next to the Van Nuys Drive-In but seems happy and satisfied, like most Brad Pitt characters, within himself. When he’s crossed, he will kick the bejesus out of anyone, and he’s got a bad reputation. He has become Rick’s gofer and driver.
The Tarantino jukebox gets the kind of workout it hasn’t since seen “Pulp Fiction” (Roy Head! Paul Revere and the Raiders! Neil Diamond! Vanilla Fudge!), and for more than two hours and 40 minutes, Rick and Cliff wrestle with career and personal problems and, yes, cross paths both with Sharon Tate (Rick’s next door neighbor, played by Margot Robbie) and the Manson family (who host a memorable visit from Cliff).
There is even a scene at the Playboy Mansion and an actor playing Steve McQueen and looks and sounds just like him except he should have been shorter comments on people to some friends.
Although the film is interesting to look at, it’s too long and slow moving and drawn out. I thought at least one hour could have been edited out to make it a faster paced movie. Supposedly Tarantino wanted it to be a four hour movie. It was like watching five movies in one since you follow Dalton’s career through different movies from the late 50’s to late sixties. The beginning sequences in black and white supposed to be a TV series in the 50’s was interesting and nostalgic to see.
There are some interesting parts like Brad Pitt’s character encountering Bruce Lee in a backstage lot when he goes for a stunt job on The Green Hornet and they have a good fight to see who is better. The actor playing Bruce Lee is a very good impersonator and looks and sounds just like him.
Shannon Lee, Bruce’s daughter,said she was “disheartened” to see the director depict her father as “an arrogant a**hole who was full of hot air” and argued that, rather than being arrogant on Hollywood sets, her father – as an Asian-American in the late 1960s – would have had to work far harder than Booth.
She called it a shame that he wasn’t depicted as “…someone who had to fight triple as hard as any of those people did to accomplish what was naturally given to so many others” and described her experience watching the film as “uncomfortable” as she had to listen to people “laugh at my father”.
The sequence in which a Manson girl, named Pussycat (Margaret Qualley), gets Cliff to drive her back to the Spahn Movie Ranch, where Cliff used to shoot Westerns, and where he meets the Family (though not Charlie, who is only in the film for about 30 stray seconds), is creepy, suspenseful, and vengefully gratifying. All Cliff wants to do is say hello to his old colleague George Spahn (Bruce Dern), but to do that he’s got to threaten his way past Squeaky Fromme (Dakota Fanning), who sleeps with George to secure the place for the Manson cult. In the late ’60s, a lot of people passed through Spahn Ranch, and this encounter — though, of course, pure fiction — plays with an eerie plausibility. George is blind and sleeps a lot and doesn’t remember Cliff at all, but thanking him and hugs him for showing up and caring about him.
Rick Dalton’s home is next door to Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate’s home so we see a different perspective on the attack by Manson followers on what could have been.
While It’s fun seeing some major stars in cameo roles such as Al Pacino as a smarmy agent, Bruce Dern, Dakota Fanning and Kurt Russell, Once Upon A Time in Hollywood is imaginative and creative, but overall just o.k.
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