Once Upon A Time...In Hollywood - This 9th Movie Rocks
Dir: QT (and very hush hush)
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Al Pacino, Timothy Olyphant, Emile Hirsch, Kurt Russell, Bruce Dern, Margaret Qualley, Dakota Fanning, Damian Lewis
So, we’re 9 films in Quentin (all of them great with the notable exception of Death Proof) and now you decide to get personal? How weird is that! Once Upon A Time (ellipses all over the fucking shop) …in Hollywood is QT looking back at his youth and reimagining the dream factory he has helped re-shape more than most all at once. It is audacious, and relatively small scale; it is character-based and historically themed, it is his view of the world and the world re-written in his chosen images. It is, in short, a hell of a movie, and – strangely – the least essential of his films to date (the rubbish Death Proof excepted.)
Leo – as brilliant as ever – is Rick Dalton, a Burt Reynolds-esque TV almost has-been in search of a movie career; Brad - even brilliant-er than ever – is his Hal Needham-esque stunt double Cliff Booth. Together they careen through the dying days of the 1960s, living next door to the house where the Manson Family’s shadow hangs over Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate and more.
It’s a mix and match ride through this time – something that is clearly personal to Tarantino in a way that maybe many of his earlier films haven’t been. As such, it falls into a category that is somewhat unique in the man’s estimable oeuvre – in that there are times when it feels like an almost casual Tarantino movie. And a lot of those moments do relate to Leo as Rick Dalton and his on-screen recreations (despite having such fantastic back up as Timothy Olyphant on hand.)
But as this lengthy film finds its stretch, you realise that’s OK. QT is telling more than one story here – and he genuinely feels like he’s enjoying himself doing so, something that becomes more and more obvious as his film heads towards its brilliantly subversive final act. (We’ll shut up now.)
Tarantino has always been a director who knows how to get strong performances out of his cast, especially those that for whatever reason have fallen out of favour. Here he takes two of Hollywood’s biggest and vastest and lets them play at the height of their powers – Robbie, alongside them, is terrific but has little to do. DiCaprio has moments - his trailer breakdown in particular confirms why he is who he is.
But Pitt, a man who has always made everything he does look like he’s not really trying, totally excels here. His is a performance that apes casual but is full of poise, grace, profound control and – ultimately – beauty. Awards season is his for the taking – and rightly so.
This may not he best film that Quentin Tarantino has ever made – but its quirks, its idiosyncrasies, and ultimately his audaciousness and brilliance confirm him as the filmmaker to have been watching over the last three decades. As vital now as he ever was – and that’s a hell of a thing to still be saying.
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