Legendary filmmaker Quentin Tarantino delivers a love letter to Hollywood in his latest film Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood from Sony Pictures Releasing. The year is 1969, aging Hollywood actor Rick Daltons (Leonard DiCaprio) career is on a downward spiral. Rick’s best friend and stunt double Cliff Both (Brad Pitt) tries to keep Rick’s spirits lifted. Downplaying the advice of a casting agent (Al Pacino) to travel to Italy to make Spaghetti Westerns, Rick, instead, books a role to play an antagonist on the show Lancer. Eventually, Rick and Cliff do end up in Italy to make spaghetti westerns.
As luck would have it, rising actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and her husband Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) move next door to Rick. When Rick and Cliff return from Italy, the duo, along with Tate, find themselves in the crosshairs of the Manson family on the evening of August 8th, 1969. The events that transpire on that fateful night will forever change Hollywood.
Quentin Tarantino is one of my favorite filmmakers, and the history of Hollywood’s golden age is one of my favorite subjects. Naturally, the nearly three hours run time for Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood kept my full attention. In traditional Quentin Tarantino style, his latest film name drops numerous Hollywood legends. Music producer Terry Melcher, directors Sam Wanamaker and Sergio Corbucci as well as martial arts legend Bruce Lee are portrayed in the film.
The fictional sparring contest between Bruce Lee and Brad Pitt’s Cliff Booth is one of the films best moments. While the film does downplay Bruce’s speed and martial arts skill, however, the angle and tone Tarantino was going for just works. I think that Tarantino wanted to showcase Cliff’s ability to adjust to any situation and never back down from a fight.
The chemistry between two equally talented A-LIST actors, Leonard DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, is a pleasant pairing. The duo plays well off each other, and it’s hard to believe this is their first project when you consider how long both men have worked in the industry. I also enjoyed Margot Robbie’s portray of Sharon Tate. Not only is Robbie beautiful, but her portrayal of Tate has a natural glow to it. While we all know what happens to Tate, the way Tarantino changes her arc works for me since Hollywood is all about dreams
I must also give credit to Tarantino for casting the late great Luke Perry in a quick camo role as actor Wayne Maurder. Perry, who passed away in March of this year, was always an underrated character actor stuck in the body of a teen idol. Perry’s scene with Leonard DiCaprio is my second favorite scene in the film. Serving as Perry’s final on-screen appearance, the few minutes he’s on-screen are the perfect swan song for the former teen idol.
Mainstream audiences will have to wait until about the last 45 minutes of the film for classic Tarantino popcorn entertainment. However, Hollywood history enthusiasts and history buffs can enjoy a mix of cinematography, Meta references, and acting of the highest caliber for the first two hours of the film. Mixing a fairy tale with real-life history, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, is another successful entry in QT’s filmography.
Final Grade A