Tarantino’s ‘Hollywood’ is a Time Capsule of Tinseltown [Review]
Writer/director Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time …in Hollywood is a vibrantly entertaining time capsule of Tinseltown at the end of an era, as the popular westerns that dominated the early days of TV and movies give way to grittier, more artsy and experimental projects, and it’s also a great love story between two best friends, played to perfection by Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt.
The film takes place in 1969, essentially over a few days in the life of actor Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Pitt), as they face the realities that the movie business is changing with the times, perhaps leaving them behind. The two leads are outstanding, easily falling into a believable friendship that has spanned close to 20 years and has seen Dalton’s star rise from a TV cowboy to the movies, only to dim back into guest starring roles on TV, as the villain no less.
Dalton is every insecure actor who has come to Los Angeles to reinvent themselves as a Movie Star. DiCaprio is always a marvel to watch, and this performance is one of his best, imbuing Rick with equal drive and self-doubt. He gives Rick a slight speech impediment, which only happens when he’s not acting and never when the camera is rolling, and it is never spoken about but definitely informs quite a bit of the character. But like DiCaprio, in the end, Dalton is one hell of a great actor.
Booth is completely without ego, as opposed to Dalton (who is all ego), and Pitt is at his most charming, comfortably wearing the role like he was born for it.
The love story of this film is truly the bond between these two men, different but inseparable, fading portraits old school masculinity searching for their way in a new, more enlightened age.
Set in 1969, hippies and Vietnam are evoked, and Charles Manson has a small but vital role in the background of Rick and Cliff’s story, as one of his “family” members takes a liking to Booth and brings him home to the infamous Spahn Ranch for Hollywood‘s most suspense-filled sequence.
Part of what drives Rick’s insecurities is that hot new director Roman Polanski lives next door with his rising starlet bride, Sharon Tate, played by Margot Robbie, as light, beautiful, and lovable as she was reported to be.
In real life, of course, Tate and three of her friends were brutally murdered by members of the Manson Family, but just keep in mind that this is firmly Tarantino’s vision of history, where the actual facts never stand in the way of great Hollywood ending.
With loads of laughs and more heart than you’ll likely see coming, Once Upon a Time is a tribute to the early days of movie stars, a bygone innocence of cinema, and a bromance for the ages.
Reviewed by: Matt Artz
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Once Upon a Time …in Hollywood (rated R) is playing locally at RC Theatres in Kill Devil Hills.
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