Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood (2019)
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Margaret Qualley, Kurt Russell, Zoe Bell, Timothy Olyphant, Julia Butters, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, Mike Moh, Luke Perry and Al Pacino.
The Pitch: “Quentin Tarantino’s 9th Film!”
Tagline: The 9th Film from Quentin Tarantino.
The Overview: Beware of Spoilers…
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is an interesting film that isn’t easily summarized because it doesn’t follow the traditional three act format of most films. Instead Tarantino focuses on three main characters, fading movie/tv star Rick Dalton (DiCaprio), his best friend and stunt double, Cliff Booth (Pitt) and Dalton’s next door neighbor and rising star, Sharon Tate (Robbie). Dalton and Booth are fictional characters interacting with fictionalized versions of real Hollywood celebrities of the era. And since this is a fairy tale (Once Upon a Time), liberties are taken.
Dalton is a mash-up of Burt Reynolds and Clint Eastwood with a bit of Steve McQueen thrown in. A former tv star of a popular western bounty hunter series from a decade earlier, Dalton now makes his living guest starring as the bad guy on other folks’ tv shows. He knows his star is fading and worries that his career is over.
Booth is Dalton’s best friend and stunt double. He’s a mash-up of stuntman Hal Needham and Robert Wagner (due to the rumors that he killed his wife on a boat).
Robbie is Sharon Tate, the beautiful young starlet who was just gaining fame when she (along with several of her friends) were brutally murdered by members of the Manson family.
As we follow Dalton & Booth and Robbie, we know that they’re on a trajectory that in the real world leads to brutal murders. The journey Tarantino takes us on is a fun one. The world looks, feels and sounds like 1969. The real joy of the movie is the journey but be advised there are moments of suspense and shocking brutality. As expected, the movie doesn’t have the expected real-world outcome. (How’s that for an oxymoron?)
DiCaprio is excellent in his role as Rick Dalton displaying perhaps his best acting ever which is ironic considering he’s an actor worrying about his career. Pitt is perfect in his role as the best bud, cool sidekick. Margaret Qualley and Julia Butters were especially good in the roles. And it’s always cool to see Kurt Russell and Timothy Olyphant.
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is a movie that I think I’m going to grow to like more and more as time goes on. I’ve been thinking about it a lot since I left the theater yesterday. I really liked it. Below the trailer and my rating I’m going to speak about a couple of scenes that give away major plot points. Don’t read on if you don’t like major spoilers.
The first scene that I want to discuss is the fight between Bruce Lee and Cliff Booth. In the scene Lee comes off as arrogant and Booth appears to be beating or at the very least holding his own against Lee. Bruce Lee’s daughter has taken offense at the scene saying it puts her dad in a bad light. Initially I one hundred percent agreed with her. Thinking more about the scene I realize that Tarantino set the scene up so we’re seeing it by how Booth remembers it. From Booth’s viewpoint Lee was arrogant and even in this remembered version Booth isn’t beating Lee. From this perspective I don’t have a problem with the scene.
The scenes where Dalton screws up his lines in a scene, goes to his trailer and has a meltdown and then goes up for the next scene and nails it, is some of DiCaprio’s best acting. The payoff is set up in an earlier scene with Julia Butters and it’s a great one.
The most suspenseful scenes occur when Booth goes to the Spahn ranch, then decides to check on old man Spahn and later when Dalton unknowingly confronts members of the Manson family who are ready to kill. Both of these scenes had me fearing that Booth and Dalton were about to die.
I thought that when the Manson followers go in to kill Booth and Dalton’s wife it was excessively brutal and over the top. Looking back, that’s exactly what the Manson murders were — excessively brutal and over the top.
I liked the final scene where Dalton is invited in to meet Sharon Tate. Following the trajectory of the real-life characters I believe that Dalton will go on to become a major movie star and Booth will get a shot directing action movies.
I felt certain going in to the movie that Dalton and Booth would somehow save Sharon Tate and her friends from being murdered. I was surprised when the Manson family members ended up going into Dalton’s house. As the movie progressed I thought maybe Bruce Lee would be at Sharon’s house and he and Booth would have additional words. Dalton would attempt to calm them down when the killers show up. Lee and Booth would save the day and of course Dalton would also get credit and that would get him back into the star light. Kudos to Tarantino for surprising me (and the audience).
I look forward to future viewings of Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood.