Once Upon a Time In Hollywood

This is essentially a buddy movie, actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a chain smoking fragile TV actor whose Western series has not long been cancelled, he is finding his way into movies, mostly as a villain, his seemingly only friend is his stunt double mate Cliff (Brad Pitt), who drives him around, looks after his house and motivates him when needed.

Dalton lives in a sprawling house in the Hollywood hills, his next-door neighbor is a new arrival, the actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and her husband, hot shot Director Roman Polanski. Tate’s fame is rising; she’s wide-eyed and lapping up the trappings of her newfound movie success, her star is on the rise, Dalton’s is fading fast.

In Pitt and DiCaprio, Tarantino has two huge stars at his disposal and he knows how to use them. DiCaprio is masterful as he weaves in and out of his TV characters as Tarantino zooms in, knowing the back story of Dalton and where his acting career is headed gives DiCaprio enough meat on the bone to display his full range.

There are long shots of wind blown Pitt driving Dalton’s white Cadillac along L.A’s sun drenched freeways with seemingly not a care in the world, which he doesn’t, as he lives in a trailer on a movie drive in lot with his obedient pit bull dog ‘Brandy’, quite happy to be the 60’s version of a personal assistant to Dalton, he’s a man with nothing to prove as evidenced by a quiet steely confidence.

This is a step back in time to late 60’s Hollywood, the pace of the movie is pedestrian, which mirrors the times, you settle into it, it’s laconic, just like California. But when Cliff picks up a hitchhiking Charles Manson family member the tone shifts, and all the characters stories start coming together, this is where the movie shines.

The breezy carefree hippy vibe of the LSD inducing 60’s is about to collide head on with Manson’s murderous ideology. This is Tarantino’s version of real life events weaving in and out of his fictional script; it’s a jolt of evil, which he does so well with drawn out scenes tempting viewers who nervously wait for the hammer to drop.

The nighttime shots of the fast food joints with their neon signs flickering in the California air as the Cadillac’s, Mustangs and Chevys cruise around is such a great throwback to 60’s America, its Tarantino stepping outside of the story, giving us a perfect sign of the times.

Look for Al Pacino, who plays Marvin Schwarz, an agent trying to get Dalton interested in Spaghetti Westerns; Kurt Russell, Luke Perry and Michael Madson also play small roles. Burt Reynolds was also slated to play George Spahn, who rented his ranch out to the Manson family members, but Reynolds died before filming began, the role went to a brilliant Bruce Dern.

Is it Tarantino’s best work, probably not, but this is a worthy slow burner, its his love letter to 60’s Hollywood with enough rising tension and great casting to keep you keen for what Tarantino may do next.

hallymustang rating: 📽📽📽📽 4/5

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