Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood Review
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Margaret Qualley, Timothy Olyphant, Julia Butters, Austin Butler, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, Mike Moh, Luke Perry, Damian Lewis, Al Pacino, Nicholas Hammond, Samantha Robinson, Rafał Zawierucha, Lorenza Izzo, Costa Ronin, Damon Herriman, Lena Dunham, Madisen Beaty, Mikey Madison, James Landry Hébert, Maya Hawke, Victoria Pedretti, Sydney Sweeney, Kansas Bowling, Danielle Harris, Harley Quinn Smith, Rumer Willis, Dreama Walker, Rebecca Rittenhouse, Rachel Redleaf, Rebecca Gayheart, Scoot McNairy, Kurt Russell, Zoë Bell
Oscar Wins: Best Supporting Actor (Brad Pitt), Best Production Design
Other Nominations: Best Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio), Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Director, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Original Screenplay, Best Picture
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, Hollywood loves itself. The cinematic landscape is filled with movies about Hollywood in its heyday. Some are set to music, like La La Land or Singin’ in the Rain, some are cynical and whimsy, like Sunset Boulevard or Tropic Thunder, and some are cautiously honest, like A Star is Born. But none boast the unparalleled and unique voice that Quentin Tarantino brings to his latest masterpiece, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood.
Set in Los Angeles in 1969, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood is really two stories in one. The first story centers around a declining Western TV actor named Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double and BFF, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Once the star of a hit Western show titled “Bounty Law”, Dalton is now struggling to find work, keenly aware that his days of heroism are nearing an end as he ages out of the Hollywood spotlight.
On the flipside, newcomer Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) is enjoying her rise to stardom. Recently married to famed director Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) and celebrating the release of her newest film, The Wrecking Crew, Tate’s storyline runs parallel with Dalton’s, only intersecting at the end of the film in one hell of a glorious climax.
While Dalton’s storyline really could exist on its own here, the purpose of including Tate’s storyline in this movie is two-fold, in my opinion. On one hand, Tate offers a foil for Dalton, instilling the age-old Hollywood myth that as one star rises, another must fall. The fact that both Dalton and Tate are next door neighbors seems to drive that point home a little bit more.
On the other hand, the brutal murder of Tate at the hands of the Manson family marks the end of this bygone “golden age” of Hollywood and might be the proverbial period at the end of this wild and amazing storyline.
So, what’s this movie about, you ask? Well, it really isn’t about anything. It’s more a series of moments in time. I would even go so far as to compare it to the likes of The Big Lebowski, where people just kind of…hang out. The majority of OUATIH is really designed to be a dreamy snapshot of 1960s LA. We get tons of shots of Cliff driving around in his car, if for no other reason than to show off the amazing production design, the classic cars of the era and the phenomenal jams coming from the radio. It's filled with pop culture iconography, yet it’s completely void of those other hot button issues that made this era so historic – political protest, social conflict and perhaps most importantly, the Vietnam War. But the thing is, it works! In this Hollywood fairy tale, Tinsletown really is everything we want it to be.
Also like Lebowski, OUATIH is really character-driven, and no one – and I mean no one – could have pulled this off better than Leo and Brad.
For Pitt, playing Cliff Booth was probably nothing more than Brad just being Brad. In this role, Pitt reminds us of how wonderful he can be when given the right material. Playful, charismatic, charming, funny…he really does shine in this movie – and he’s not the only one.
DiCaprio is so perfectly cast as Rick Dalton that it’s truly hard to imagine anyone else in that role. Leo has always had classic Hollywood charisma and he plays Dalton with that poignant mix of longing and fading optimism that so often comes with realizing you ain’t as good as you once were.
The ending of OUATIH is quintessentially Tarantino…and if you’re a fan of his, you will not be disappointed. I personally was so blown away by the ending that I literally laughed through the entire thing because I didn’t know what else to do. True to form, a beautiful marriage of violence and humor brings this groovy Hollywood fairy tale to a close and I have to be honest, I thought the whole thing was a blast. For those who love movies, those who love Hollywood and those who long for the good ol’ days in their own lives, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood is the movie you’ve been waiting for.