Quentin Tarantino has been writing and directing films of violent vengeance for almost thirty years. His work has been brooding odes to blood-lust in inventive manners that have been hailed as controversial and brilliant in equal measure.
Over his past couple of films, one could deduce his fall into over-indulgence. Lengthy and stretched run-times became tests of buttock strength without the story ever having reason to be this long. His reputation as an…eclectic…director was waning with public favour and now the audience polarisation seems greater than before.
With Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, it certainly feels like Tarantino has calmed down to produce his nicest film – even if he still does fall into old tricks.
Once Upon A Time in Hollywood has been hailed as love-letter to an era-clad Los Angeles. It revolves mainly on Rick Dalton, an aging actor who became famous playing Now renegated to villainous roles and guest starring on other programmes, Dalton keeps his head above water thanks to his stuntman and best-friend Cliff Booth who not only drives him around, but fixes up his house and also shields his tears from prying eyes. Next to him on Cielo Drive is Sharon Tate, an upcoming actress married to acclaimed director Roman Polanski, who spends her life enjoying the treasures that Hollywood has to offer.
The film is a somewhat aimless movie that feels like a series of vignettes of the main three. In many ways that is quite beautiful. Especially because Tarantino’s clearly a big fan of the time. A tinge of electricity and emotion floats throughout iconic sequences. Drives past boulevards show a flurry of lights and posters that reminisce and remember the bygone heydays of the sixties. In keeping with Tarantino’s usual flares, the music is brilliant synced to this LA traipsing as the director sings praises in cinematic poetry to an industry that felt bigger and brighter than it does now. This wishful nostalgia glistens in the colours, in Sharon twirling at the
Though not without it’s darkness. Rick’s own descent into obscurity has him struggling to keep his composure and his brooding hangover a secret from his child co-star and is framed with loss and abandonment. The camera lurks just beside a desperate man cloying at the last remains of his relevance and Leonardo DiCaprio has never done such great work as a one blue-eyed beauty, yelling expletives at himself for forgetting two measly lines.
But as much as Rick’s insecurities are greatly delved into, it’s the terror lurking in the Spahn Ranch that really chills you to the bone. Knowing the real history of the summer of 1969, it is hard to feel unease when Cliff Booth follows the exuberant Pussycat to the abandoned movie location. Populated by the Family, supposedly brainwashed into committing heinous crimes by Charles Manson, the Ranch showcases them for what they are – spoiled, bratty, and vicious creatures who preyed on the weak. As Pitt’s Booth comes face to face with them on numerous occasion, it is a terrifying watch.
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is a good film but it could’ve been great. The vast length time showcases Tarantino’s need for a better editor who could make the drawling scenes snappier. Tarantino has argued that his portrayal of Sharon Tate was there to show her living a life beyond her tragic history – her near wordless writing is only fleshed out by Margot Robbie’s brilliant empathic acting.
Still Once Upon A Time in Hollywood is a trifecta: Rick and Cliff’s whisky soaked outings, Sharon’s bright-eyed wonderings through town, and the Manson family’s wild, insane ramblings and awful deeds. The end is perhaps one of the greatest endings in a film this year that is both entertaining as it is emotional – moving you to tears in some places.
Once Upon A Time in Hollywood is not a perfect movie but it is a good fantasy nonetheless.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now!