When Quentin Tarantino re-wrote history in ‘Inglorious Basterds,’ it was a huge risk to take. To see a massacre of Nazi’s burning to death in a cinema was very satisfying and the audience can’t help to be elated. In his new film, ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,’ history will be re-written. The question is how? Will we feel the same elated experience or will we be disappointed? Let’s just say elated isn’t too much of a spoiler. You won’t walk away disappointed, in fact, you’ll walk out blown away.
Tarantino is back with his 9th and penultimate film before the apparent final curtain. By now, the Academy Award Winning, writer and director has high expectations from his audience and without a doubt meets them. His subject knowledge of film prior to the 1960’s is encyclopaedic due to his so called photographic memory. He uses popular culture to his advantage and teaches the audience things we don’t know. Having said that, we are expected to know about the Sharon Tate murders instigated by Charles Manson’s cult followers. We have seen glimpses of the Manson cult in a diverse range of cinema, but this one is without a doubt the most original and by far the best retelling.
Aside from the sub plot of real life actress Sharon Tate, a faded television actor, Rick Dalton played by Leonardo DiCaprio and his stunt double, Cliff Booth played by Brad Pitt strive to achieve fame and success in the film industry during the final years of Hollywood’s Golden Age in 1969 Los Angeles. They were successful up to a point and now Dalton’s A-list reputation is drying up and all Booth can do instead of being active in his stunt duties, can only chauffeur Dalton and tend to his needs like a butler. To witness their trials and tribulations is entertaining as Pitt and DiCaprio have a good chemistry on camera.
It is Dalton’s next door neighbour, Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate on the rise of fame and fortune as the hippy culture is dominating in this era and awarding them all the aces in the deck. Jealousy may come in to the equation for Dalton (DiCaprio) and the hope to work with Polanski, perhaps one day to appear in ‘Chinatown’ thus replacing Jack Nicholson in this alternate timeline could happen. Margot Robbie plays the intriguing Sharon Tate and although her dialogue is somewhat limited, it is Robbie’s showing rather than telling that makes the character appealing and enticing. Tarantino has created Sharon Tate to tease you to want more and it truly is a tease and leaves you with a fascination for Robbie’s character. We are aware of her demise and tragic ending. We believe the worst is to come in the end, hence we feel protective of the fun and loving Tate.
Be that as it may, there are many gems in ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.’ The title alone implies you are watching a fairy tale and all fairy tales have happy endings. Will we get it here is the question? To see DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton act out his insecurities of being a ‘has been’ actor is excellent. The scenes where he acts on set of a Western TV show and struggles is alluring. All it takes is motivational speaking from a ten year old child actress named Trudi played effortlessly by a rising child, Julia Butters. Tarantino has written a beautiful duologue between Dalton and Trudi, where she motivates and inspires him with wise words beyond her years. Her praise is what will restore his confidence and it’s impressive how a little girl can be a muse to a guy down on his luck.
Nonetheless, it is surprising how Brad Pitt has stolen the film as the best character as he has pure fun with the role, showing a lot of physical fighting and violence to his character. Cliff Booth is a mixture of ‘Fight Club’s Tyler Durden and ‘Inglorious Basterd’s Aldo Raine. He’s quirky, ditzy and hard-hitting literally that he is the true standout. The scene where Pitt is challenged by Bruce Lee is comedic and hilarious. It is a fact that Tarantino has directed the portrayal of Bruce Lee as arrogant and extremely cocky, that it has offended Lee’s real life daughter Shannon Lee. However, seeing previous interviews of the real Bruce Lee, one would beg to differ of his arrogance. There may be some truth in this portrayal that we could empathise in Tarantino’s decision of how he chooses to portray this iconic star.
The violence is still Tarantino-esque, but there’s not much of it throughout like ‘Reservoir Dogs’ or the greatest film ever made, ‘Pulp Fiction.’ Like Martin Scorsese’s ‘Taxi Driver’ the violence is saved to the end with a big climax. The Manson family must do what we expect, however how it happens is another story, yet still impressive.
It was exactly fifty years ago today when Sharon Tate and her friends were tragically massacred. It is a fact that the Tate murders have engrained the Charles Manson story in to popular culture and history. Tarantino has used this storyline with his film perfectly and created interweaving characters like he does in a lot of his films. When you watch Tarantino’s ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,’ it will astound you and have an impact on you. It will be a classic in years to come just like ‘Pulp Fiction’ is a classic in the quarter of a century that it’s been out.
Aly Lalji | [rating=5]
Comedy, Drama | USA, 2019 | 18 | 14th August 2019 (UK) | Sony Pictures Releasing UK | Dir.Quentin Tarantino | Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Al Pacino, Kurt Russell, Margaret Qualley