It’s been 4 years since Quentin Tarantio’s previous film The Hateful Eight, and now he’s back with a film that is very different than anything he’s ever done before, Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood.
Generally looking at Tarantino’s filmography you can look at them in a couple of different categories. There’s the more story driven ones, often by revenge, such as Kill Bill or Inglourious Basterds, then there’s the ones where a bunch of characters are dropped into a situation and we watch how they interact and it unfurls, much like Reservoir Dogs or The Hateful Eight. Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood however is a look at two characters and their relationship.
The film set in late 60s Hollywood follows Rick Dalton, a former TV star who had a brief dalliance with film before sliding back into guest spots on TV, and his long time stuntman Cliff Booth. We pick up with Dalton beginning to feel as though he’s on the way out, whilst Booth mainly works now as his handyman more than his stuntman. Meanwhile Dalton finds himself living next door to one of Hollywood’s hottest rising stars, Sharon Tate. Whilst we do get to spend some time with Tate, getting to know her, most of the film is focused on Dalton and Booth.
We get to see their friendship, and their struggles with being older, often being viewed as ‘has-beens’. We see how this is affecting Dalton’s confidence and belief in his ability. Meanwhile Booth is far more comfortable in his situation, content to help Dalton out, and occasionally get to perform stunts for him. Thanks to Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s performances as these two you really get brought into the friendship between the two, and really feel for them. DiCaprio carries a lot of the heart of the film, while Pitt has some of the best comedic timing and delivery of any actor working today. Together they’re such an incredible pairing with superb chemistry.
Margot Robbie too is fantastic, bringing such life to Tate, making you truly care for someone who obviously has such a tragic story in real life. It is also worth mentioning that the list of supporting actors alongside the main three is incredible, even though most only get small, one scene roles, the talent on show means that no one in the cast feels as though they are letting the side down.
The other star of the film is Hollywood itself. Tarantino painstakingly recreates the feel of late 60s Hollywood, something he grew up with, and has clearly been influenced heavily by. From the feel of the town, to the music that captures the vibe of the era, and the kinds of TV and people’s reactions to it, this feels so authentic. And whilst this is one of the greatest strengths of the film, it could also come across as one of its few weaknesses as well. There is certainly a lot to be gained by knowing about this era of Hollywood, and if you don’t know it you could end up feeling like you’re missing out a little on some of the moments that are very ‘inside Hollywood.
But that absolutely shouldn’t put you off. Even without the knowledge of what it was like in that era Tarantino draws you into the time. And whilst it is far more touching, and almost sentimental, than anything Tarantino has ever delivered before it still comes wrapped in all of the usual trappings you can expect from a Tarantino feature. His exceptional flair for dialogue is electric when in the hands of DiCaprio and Pitt, the soundtrack is full of great tunes, and there’s even a small sprinkling of typical Tarantino ultraviolence. Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood is a film that is simultaneously incredibly Tarantino like but also completely distinct from anything he’s done before, and that shows just how he’s developed his craft as filmmaker, making a film that deserves to be talked about with his best.