I went into Once Upon a Time in Hollywood knowing I would love it, and why. I’m a huge fan of Tarantino’s work, and was sold on the film before the first trailer even aired. What I’m trying to say is that I wasn’t expecting to be surprised. I assumed, perhaps arrogantly, that I was familiar enough with Tarantino to have a rough idea of what was in store: monologues, witty dialogue, and plenty of graphic violence. Whilst all of these are found in the film (old habits die hard after all), I was truly gleeful to discover that I could still be surprised by Tarantino after all: the man has not yet said everything he wants to say, and I couldn’t be happier.
Leonardo DiCaprio is front and centre throughout, and puts on one of his best performances as Rick Dalton, a once popular western star fighting obscurity in an ever-changing film market. Brad Pitt is also excellent, as if there was any doubt, as the cool and confident Clive Booth, long-time stunt double to Dalton and his closest friend and confidant. The writing balances both A-listers’ roles throughout, ensuring that neither plays second fiddle to the other, with each bringing their own humour and intensity to their respective roles.
As ill-fated screen beauty Sharon Tate, Margot Robbie has less screen time than some might expect. Despite this, she is an essential member of the cast, dominating her scenes and tying the two plotlines together in style. Side characters, played by a dizzying array of actors and actresses, are a mixed bag. Timothy Olyphant, Kurt Russell and Maya Hawke blend into their roles seamlessly, and add life and charm to the world depicted on screen. Others, such as Mike Moh, who plays Bruce Lee, are more distracting - like Tarantino’s cameo in Django Unchained, Moh’s scene is perhaps overly self-indulgent, and distracts from the pacing somewhat. Despite this, and the monumental amount of other actors who get screentime, the plot runs like a well- oiled machine, the nearly three hour runtime flashing by with devilish vigour.
Tarantino writes films he always wanted to see. His past pieces have been homages to gangster films, war films, westerns and kung-fu classics. Here, Tarantino idolises not a genre but an era, a taste of the Golden Age of Hollywood in its dying throes written with love and admiration for everything it depicts. It’s this, I think, that surprised me so when I first watched it. Characters don’t monologue (much), spout quotes or burst mid-sentence into fights. Because to
Tarantino, these aren’t the fictional characters of prior films, but living breathing screen gods in some alternate 60s movieworld that no longer exists. Some reviewers have labelled the film a ‘midlife crisis’ piece from Tarantino. I couldn’t disagree more; this is a film straight out of the mind of six-year-old Tarantino, populated with his screen idols and lit up with a fairytale-esque Hollywood sheen.
Whether you’re a long time Tarantino fan or just looking for a wondrous 165 minutes this summer, the film is a miraculous must-see and spectacular ninth film by one of cinema’s best