In theatres this week from visionary writer/director Quentin Tarantino and Columbia Pictures is a film that can only be called ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD.
It is 1969 Los Angeles and Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) is having an identity crisis. Once the lead in his own television series, he also makes time to do roles in other television shows. Living in the Hollywood hills on the secluded Cielo Drive, he is driven around town by his stunt double and friend Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt).
Also living on Cielo Drive next door is actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and husband director Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha). She is living and loving life taking time to enjoy her career.
While working out life and where his career is going, Dalton has to take each phase like a scene with decisions that constantly plague him. Cliff is a little more free spirited and enjoys stunt work when he gets it and being a friend to Dalton. It is difficult for Cliff with a rumor that surrounds an incident in his life.
On several occasions he sees the young girl Pussycat (Margaret Qualley) hitchhiking through L.A. After dropping Dalton off on the set, he sees Pussycat again and offers her a ride. Strangely enough she is staying at the Spahn Movie Ranch where Cliff once shot scenes and she invites him to meet Charlie. Eager to see owner George Spahn (Bruce Dern), he is met with hostility by Squeaky (Dakota Fanning) and Tex (Austin Butler).
Dalton decides to go to Italy and do spaghetti westerns and returns home after six months with a wife and a need to simplify his life which includes having to let Cliff go as a driver. That doesn’t stop these old friends from whooping it up one last time. That same night, Dalton’s very pregnant neighbor Sharon and friends Jay (Emile Hirsch), Abigail (Samantha Robinson) and Voytek (Costa Ronin) are out celebrating as well.
What none of them could know was what would happen on Cielo Drive that hot night in 1969!
DiCaprio as Dalton is absolutely stunning in this role. He is a paranoid, dysfunctional, insecure chain smoking alcoholic who believes the worst about himself as an actor. That is what makes his performance brilliant in that he is not only able to pull all of that off, but kept me convinces for two hours and forty-five minutes. DiCaprio’s acting within acting scenes is intense at times but so damn well done I forgot it was a scene within a scene of the movie itself. I will be thinking about this performance for a very long time.
Pitt as Cliff is laid back and happy with his life of being in the background of Dalton’s career. This character that has a past that gets in his way yet not enough to bother him. His true love is pittie Brandy who is just as adorable as she wants to be and very protective of her human. Pitt gives the audience charm, rooftop abs (oh sorry, should I not have mentioned that?), that insanely memorable grin and a threshold of no-nonsense that is amazing up to the point where it isn’t. I am crazy about every aspect of this character until the absolute…very…end and then I just fell head over heels once again for Pitt. There couldn’t have been a better pairing than these two actors and honestly I never would have thought of it which is why I’m not a director.
Robbie as Tate gives a performance of a sweet and simple woman who loved music, friends, and sitting in a movie theatre watching herself not out of narcissm, but to experience the audience reaction. Her character portrayal of the actress was beautiful.
Olyphant as Stacey gets a chance to don western gear and I loved watching him dual it out, so to speak, with DiCaprio. Fanning as Squeaky portrayed someone I wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley…ever. Butler, Madison and Beatty as the terrifying Manson trio are as frightening as they need to be and I’m leaving it right there.
A shout out to young Julia Butters as Trudi is epic in her two scenes with DiCaprio. My reaction to her was immediate and filled with smiles. Her character is smart, witty, and perceptive all trapped inside the body of an 8 year old. I want to be her when I grow up!
Other cast include Sydney Sweeney as Snake, Timothy Olyphant as James Stacy, Harley Quinn Smith as Froggie, Damian Lewis as Steve McQueen, Mike Moh as Bruce Lee, Lorenza Izzo as Francesca Capucci, Rumer Willis as Joanna Pettet, Scoot McNairy as Bob Gilbert, Clifton Collins Jr. as Ernesto, Michael Madsen, and Kurt Russell as Randy.
Also, Rebecca Gayheart as Billie, Lena Dunham as Gypsy, Nicholas Hammond as Sam Wanamaker, Mikey Madison as Sadie, Madisen Beaty as Katie, Julia Butters as Trudi, Luke Perry as Wayne Maunder, and Al Pacino as Marvin Schwarzs.
This is as brief of a review as I could possible do for this film because I really don’t want to spoil any of it for anyone. I can say that I think I’ve seen a strong contender for an Academy Award nomination and many actors that could easily fill all the slots for Best Actor and Best Supporting nods.
What I love best about this film, and perhaps it shows my age, is that I remember all of it. The clothing, magazines, music, cars, the scenery, the places and the events of the era turned a light back on inside my head. All of it provided an emotional rollercoaster of staying in the story and trying not to let the eye candy distract.
The story, and oh what a story it is, came from the mind of Tarantino absolutely. Every scene was a wonder of where it was going and what would happen when we (meaning everyone in the theatre with me) got there. Dalton and Booth took us on the ride and I didn’t fight on second of it. We wanted to know more about their personal issues and the six degrees of separation between every character we were introduced to. Trust me when I say this was definitely a theatrical experience.
Were there a few giggles? Of course! Tarantino has a twisted sense of that and he lets us in on it. Of course I caught myself giggling a few times to myself but that’s my own personal twisted sense of humor.
The audience walked out on a high of immediately talking about what they had seen and wondering if the people they were with shared in their thought process. No one left right away but instead mingled outside of theatre 5 to continue sharing the experience. Here I sit and I’m still thinking about it all.
Yes the film is 161 minutes long yet it is one of the best times I’ve had at the movies in a long time. Being in the desert of wanting-thirst for something amazing on screen, Tarantino has just given me a huge whiskey sour and I certainly wouldn’t mind another.
In the end – it is a story of Hollywood Tarantino style!