Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film is a love letter to 1960s Los Angeles, providing psychedelic visuals, a killer cast and multiple storylines that add up to an engrossing experience and a welcome improvement from 2015’s “The Hateful Eight.”
Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is set in 1969 Los Angeles, where the landscape is changing from film to TV as star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), try to figure out an industry they barely recognize anymore. Featuring an ensemble cast and multiple storylines, the film is a tribute to the golden age of Hollywood.
While meandering at times with its pace, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” features a career-best performance from Brad Pitt and has director Tarantino once again subverting the past to create fictional history.
The film features Dalton as the lead, an actor at the end of his rope, forced to guest-star on popular TV shows. DiCaprio pours out loads of emotion — franticness, depression, arrogance. It’s very much as if DiCaprio’s entire character is a parody of Hollywood culture. He’s not that fantastic of a guy, but there’s something spellbinding about Dalton’s willingness to stay a leader in the entertainment industry.
And speaking of Dalton, Brad Pitt’s scene-chewing Booth has such a relaxed, fun relationship with DiCaprio’s character. It helps that DiCaprio and Pitt have a solid rapport with one another, and you can easily see the natural chemistry the two actors have.
While some might not enjoy the multiple plot points or the fact Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is used more as a background figure to represent ’60s Hollywood than a main character, the whole point of the film is its commentary on the spectacle of Hollywood and how violence is glamorized in film.
At one point, a character talks about how popular entertainment teaches the young generation to be aggressive and violent.
And indeed “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is glamorized. With close-ups of neon-soaked lights illuminating the streets in Los Angeles, this really is the culture Tarantino grew up in. It plays like a fairy tale set in the world of cinema. So, because of the way it truly, easily transports the viewer into California in the 1960s, I tip my hat to Tarantino.
Ultimately, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” succeeds in having Tarantino continue to play in his sandbox of cinema. He excels at adding a ninth film to his collection that likely will be remembered fondly as a twisted love letter to Tinseltown.