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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

February 13, 2020
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019) dir: Quentin Tarantino

Maverick movie maker Quentin Tarantino’s nostalgic love affair with an era that gave us many refreshing and original cinematic and television gems, not to mention a watershed era of political, social upheavals and progressions, takes us back to Hollywood circa 1969 as traversed through the eyes of fictional characters Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth. Rick—Leonardo DiCaprio—is an actor of B movie action flicks and a popular Western television show. Cliff—Brad Pitt—is a stunt man who doubles for Rick and is his best buddy and minder. Theirs is a bona-fide relationship of male bonding and genuine platonic love and it is rock solid to its core. Rick can bear his soul to Cliff, unfettered and uninhibited, and Cliff is there to offer him stoic, yet moral support. Cliff would happily and contentedly take a fall for Rick. Cliff though, comes with a dark past and there is an enigma surrounding him. This is also something that emboldens his connection to Rick.  

On the peripheral, Tarantino recreates the Hollywood jet-set of then populous iconic actors and film-makers and twists his film into a wry fable focusing on the crazed Charles Manson cult and beautiful young actress Sharon Tate, Margot Robbie —who at the time was married to controversial auteur Roman Polanski, before being brutally slaughtered along with her unborn child and friends at her home near Beverly Hills. As is stands with this offering, Rick just happens to reside next door to the Polanski residence. This is a key indicator that in the Tarantino universe, anything can and will happen and history is not always portrayed as written.

It is no fluke that DiCaprio and Pitt are considered A tier actors. Dalton’s character is not really that likeable, and he can come across as a tad spoiled, conceited and even pitiful. He is also concerned about becoming a “has been”. In the talented hands of DiCaprio, he manages to make his Rick sympathetic and interesting enough, that while we may not wholly relate to him, we can still be fascinated by him. Pitt here, is cool, leathery and reticent and he is the kind of guy you would want to have on your side. Loyal and fearless, Pitt manages to give his Cliff just the right edge and acute timing of black humor that is coursing through veins of Tarantino’s wicked and satiric script. He nails his scenes without too much verbosity. With DiCaprio, it is more about the clever and circumscribed dialog delivery.     

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is a slow burn of a film, but as in the best of films, the substance and nuances also gets reflected in the stylistic approach. What we get here is a wonderful and authentic recreation of what this era felt like. We also get an in-depth insight with seeing actors working on a film set and the complete focus and deep introspection that is required for the actor to deliver. For those interested in the mechanisms of film making and the creative process involved, this movie is a must see.

 Main Library Level 4 - Film & Television collection ONC

Darren Cunningham - Bond Library's movie reviewer