Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★★★½

Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Metacritic Metascore: 83
IMDB: 7.7


Release Date: 26 July 2019
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Budget: $90M
Worldwide Gross: $372M
OSCAR Nominations: 10
OSCAR Wins: 2

2019 Ranked

Bruce Lee: "You're the one with the big mouth, and I would really enjoy closing it, especially in front of all my friends. But my hands are registered as lethal weapons. That means we get into a fight, I accidentally kill you? I go to jail."

SYNOPSIS: A faded television actor and his stunt double strive to achieve fame and success in the film industry during the final years of Hollywood's Golden Age in 1969 Los Angeles.

The film covers about 6 months in 1969, but in reality, it all takes place (at least what we see on screen) in 3 days. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Rick Dalton, an actor who had a hit (fictional) TV western series in the '50s and '60s entitled "Bounty Law". Since the show ended, Rick has been unable to make the successful transition to movies. For comparison, think of Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, and Burt Reynolds - all actors in TV westerns who found greater career success in movies. Brad Pitt (the epitome of cool) stars as Cliff Booth, Rick's stunt double, friend, driver, handyman, etc. While Rick is desperate to find the next stage of his career and fend off being forgotten, Cliff, a Vietnam vet, is accepting of his lot in life. Rick lives in a swanky Hollywood Hills home next door to hotshot director Roman Polanski and his starlet wife Sharon Tate, and Cliff lives in a trailer behind the Van Nuys Drive-In with his well-trained Rottweiler Brandy.

Cliff Booth: "Anybody accidentally kills anybody in a fight, they go to jail. It's called manslaughter."

There are multiple parallel stories to follow, and a key one involves the aforementioned Sharon Tate. Margot Robbie nails the role and bounces about town with the energy and sweet aura that we imagine she possessed. All 3 of the lead actors - DiCaprio, Pitt, Robbie - have knockout scenes that I'd love to be able to discuss, but I'm not sure how without giving away too much. What I can say is that each of these three talented actors proves that movie stars still exist.

With all of its references, obscure or in your face, there is a delicious amount to absorb, especially for cinephiles. Tarantino has the viewer to sit back, eat up the screen, and imagine we are right there with the characters in a wonderfully painted portrait of a Hollywood long gone.

Narrator: "When you come to the end of the line, with a buddy who is more than a brother and a little less than a wife, getting blind drunk together is really the only way to say farewell."

It's been three and a half years since 'The Hateful Eight', Tarantino's most recent film, and probably his worst received. This one is clearly personal as it captures the time and place that he fell in love with movies. The dichotomy of the rising starlet and fading cowboy as neighbors is a brilliant way to make a point about times changing. This was a time of transition in the United States - a new culture was upon us, and whatever innocence remained, was surely snuffed out on a hot August night in 1969. As usual, his use of music serves a purpose. QT also shows us plenty of bare feet (another trademark). What is unusual is that the film lacks the trademark mass dialogue. This one kind of meanders ... right up until it doesn't.

Sadie: "We are in fucking Hollywood, man. The people an entire generation grew up watching kill people, live here. And they live in pigshit fucking luxury. I say fuck 'em. I say we cut their cocks off and make them eat it."

The casting director for this film also deserves major kudos because each and every one of these performers nailed their role in every way possible. Margaret Qualley is a scene-stealer as Pussycat, one of the Manson family girls. You likely remember her from the recent "Fosse/Verdon" or "The Leftovers", and here she fully embraces the hippie look and spirit. Emile Hirsch plays hairdresser Jay Sebring, one of those in the house with Ms. Tate on that fateful night, and Mike Moh plays Bruce Lee so convincingly that I was momentarily confused when he took off his sunglasses. Also making appearances are some Tarantino regulars: Kurt Russell (as a stunt coordinator and narrator), Michael Madsen (as an actor), and Bruce Dern as George Spahn. Others of note include Maya Hawke (Uma Thurman's daughter), Austin Butler as Tex Watson, Rumer Willis (Bruce's daughter) as actress Joanna Pettet, Damian Lewis as Steve McQueen, Al Pacino as agent Marvin Schwarz's, Dakota Fanning as Squeaky Fromme, and the late Luke Perry as actor Wayne Maunder. Hell, even 90-year-old Clu Gulager (The Last Picture Show) makes an appearance and Nicholas Hammond (The Sound of Music) tears into his role with gusto as director Sam Wanamaker.

Rick Dalton: "You fuckin' hippies came up here to smoke dope on a dark road, huh?"

This movie will be misunderstood because of the expectations for the Manson murders, and because audiences nowadays expect action on every corner, which Tarantino's name can be attached to in some capacity. Without any crazy special effects to speak, simply a fantastic script and acting, I think many audience members will get bored or not understand why it's entertaining to others. I personally think it's one of Tarantino's best, and will stand the test of time for movie lovers everywhere.

Finally, agree or disagree, we all have to admit that Brad Pitt's dog was awesome.


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Fact-Checking Source: IMDb

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Directing - 5/5
Screenplay - 4.5/5
Editing - 4.5/5
Prod Design - 5/5
Cinematography - 5/5
Acting - 5/5
Pacing - 4/5
Sound - 4.5/5
Enjoyment rating - 9.5/10

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