Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film Once Upon a Time In Hollywood is set in Hollywood in 1969. Rick Dalton (Leonardoo DiCaprio) and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) try to make a name for themselves after their long-running television series Bounty Law comes to an end. They both search for work as they explore the world of Hollywood.
Mixing real-life history, Hollywood legends and some Tarantino vision, we get a unique tale. Throughout the film we get to meet Roman Polanski, Bruce Lee, Sharon Tate, Steve McQueen, Dean Martin, and even the members of the Manson Family. At the end, it all comes together in a classic Tarantino climax.
It’s sometimes strange to see actors playing actors, and even stranger to see actors playing real-life actors. But this movie’s cast is able to pull it off. DiCaprio pulls in a great performance as heavy-drinking and self-deprecation Dalton. He’s a former star, but knows he can do better if given the chance.
Pitt’s Booth is a quieter type, mostly serving as the cowboy-like character: big and strong, with a past he’s not too open about. Yet everyone seems to either know his story, or be able to read him. He’s simple but not boring or dumb, which makes him so likeable, even after you learn of his past.
It’s also fitting to cast these two men in their roles. Pitt and DiCaprio are both still huge names in the industry, but I would argue that they are past they height of popularity. It’s meta and surreal. I can’t give enough praise to everyone else. Having to play the Hollywood elites of that era must’ve been so surreal for them.
In fact, the film’s entire setting is surreal. Every moment I think I’m looking into a time capsule. Hippies run around, Vietnam is argued over, and the 1970s is bleeding through. Mentioning the soundtrack would be unfair, as if I forgot every song, and I'd therefore do an injustice to it.
Tarantino was able to capture of the last gasp of Hollywood’s Golden Age, but show off its glamour and glitz. It’s his love letter to this era of Hollywood: not just to film and television, but the industry and Hollywood.
Tarantino loves making genre and period pieces, and we see him make countless fake shows and movies in this: posters, action sequences, and plot details from entertainment media that don't exist. He’s living the life of one of these filmmakers, and showing how quickly the industry can change for an actor. One week it’s guest appearances on Green Hornet, next week it’s starring in some knock-off Italian Western.
With all these movies and shows, we do get a hefty length on this film, and it shows. Reaching two hours and forty minutes means sitting for a long period of time. While the climax is worth it, I do wish 15 minutes could’ve been taken off. At the same time though, I love the characters and world so much that I don't want to ever leave it.
Written by Blake Preston