The ninth film for the mad scientist, the innovative storyteller and director, Quentin Tarantino, mixes the late 1960s with pop culture galore of real life and fictional events in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.”
The film centers around three central characters: Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) and real-life actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). Dalton is a famous actor who made his prominence in a Western television series, and his helpful companion and stuntman, Booth, follows him around wherever he goes. Tate, a rising actress, happens to live next door to Dalton with her director husband, Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha).
Dalton, despite his fame and talent, is going through a mid-life crisis. He finds himself starring in numerous failed Western films, and his transition from television to film has been nothing short of a disaster.
While Booth is there to comfort his friend, he’s got problems of his own. He’s an aging stuntman in Hollywood, and he sees more action fixing Dalton’s television antenna than working on sets of television and film studios.
Meanwhile, Tate has her feet on the ground, but she’s constantly looking up to the stars, as her dream of becoming a Hollywood actress is becoming a reality.
As for the hotheaded and alcoholic Dalton, he’s reluctant to listen to his agent, Marvin Schwarzs (Al Pacino), who encourages him to take his talents to Italy and make Westerns there, but Dalton knows he’s right.
The easygoing Booth finds himself in a situation of his own. After one thing leads to another, he gives a young lady a ride home, who happens to be a member of the Mason Family cult, led by none other than Charles Manson. After ruffling some feathers there, as Booth enjoys all too much, he is left with an unbeknownst target on his back from “a bunch of hippies.”
Can Dalton revive his failed film career? Does Booth know the trouble he caused with the Manson Family? Will Tate become the next Marilyn Monroe? These are questions Tarantino leaves plenty of answers for in a spontaneous, certifiably insane journey of real life and fiction.
It goes without saying that “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” does not work without its home run hitters. To call DiCaprio and Pitt exceptional actors might be the understatement of the century, but the two demand your attention in every scene. Pitt, perhaps an underrated film actor, has never been better as the aging, handsome and often times hilarious Booth.
As for the film itself, it does require patience. While never dull, the almost three-hour runtime is a slow burn that pays off with a fiery explosion of an ending.
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is an ode to a time period where actors were truly revered. They had more prestige than a blue checkmark on Twitter and Instagram.
In the most unique way, the film represents the distinctive place that was Hollywood. How anything, and I do mean anything, can happen on a late August evening in 1969 in La La Land.
In a film in which only Tarantino could make, he brought together some of the finest actors of our time to create a film in 2019 that has the soul and spirit of 1969. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is outrageous, ridiculous and most importantly, captivating.