In his ninth movie offering, ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’, Quentin Tarantino takes us back to August 1969 with this nostalgic, if somewhat silly, buddy comedy successfully folded into a twisted take on the Charles Manson murders.
Tarantino proudly describes his stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt as, “the most exciting star dynamic duo since Robert Redford and Paul Newman.”
DiCaprio plays Rick Dalton, a washed up, alcoholic, TV cowboy and action star whose smug confidence covers up a world of self-doubts.
Dalton is marooned in the City of Angels with his only friend, stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), an easygoing and simple soul who hides a terrible secret of which he may or may
not be guilty.
A series of DUIs has cost Dalton his driver’s license, so he is dependent upon Booth to chauffeur him around. Along the way, Booth delivers pep talks as the fading star sheds boozy tears of self-pity.
Tarantino’s script, which he worked on for five years, has Dalton renting a Beverly Hills-area mansion on upscale Cielo Drive and living next door to a golden show-biz couple, Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha). Tate, a little-known
actress of ethereal beauty, becomes a fleeting but well-developed character in
In the meantime, charismatic wacko
Charles Manson (Damon Herriman) has
trained his collection of luscious acolytes
to spend their days on Sunset Boulevard
amassing money, food and attention.
Dalton dismisses the provocatively
dressed teens as hippie trash, but Booth
becomes intrigued enough to offer a ride
home to Pussycat (Margaret Qualley), a
flirty, zonked-out nymphet who lives on
the Spahn Movie Ranch, now squatted on
by Manson and his followers.
Weaving the Manson tragedy into
his fictional story, Tarantino applies his own spin to the infamous murder scene involving Tate as it unfolds next to Dalton’s home.
The filmmaker known for his ensemble casts, extreme onscreen violence and fondness
of pop culture perfectly captures the zeitgeist of 1969 Hollywood with radiant shots of
billboards and movie theater marquees, as well as hit 45s of the day that throb nonstop
from car radios always tuned to KHJ, the chief Los Angeles Top 40 powerhouse at the time.
Along the way, we are treated to cameos from the likes of Al Pacino, Kurt Russell, Bruce Dern and, in his final film role, Luke Perry.
The film is a requiem for a past age, a wistful Tinseltown homage presented as a dark romp filled with teeth-grinding pathos. It’s Tarantino’s love letter to a twisted world that has mesmerized him since his childhood.
The movie opens on July 26th.
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