By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino
doesn’t do anything half-assed. “Django Unchained,” “Jackie Brown,” "Reservoir Dogs." “The Hateful Eight,” “Death Proof” and “Pulp Fiction” prove that.
So, it’s not surprising Tarantino’s latest movie, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
which he directed, wrote and co-produced, is a sentimental, intoxicating, fantasy-soaked love story which revels in Hollywood’s glorious, glamorous and dark past.
Set in 1969, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” brims with spot on depictions of the era. There’s the cool cars, cooler guys, hip clothes, beautiful women and the ever-present music from Neil Diamond, Deep Purple, Aretha Franklin and Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels among others. They’re relived through LA’s famed radio station 93-KHJ and its beloved DJ’s “The Real Don Steele” and Robert W. Morgan. For SoCal natives the musical homage is a very nice touch.
Best of all, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” has Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt. They’re among the handful of contemporary actors who truly rank as superstars. Ironically, here they play a couple of fading TV and movie stars.
DiCaprio is Rick Dalton, a famous TV cowboy star of the Western series “Bounty Law.” It’s a take on Steve McQueen’s” old show “Wanted: Dead or Alive.”
Rick can’t seem to make the leap from TV to movies. He winds up struggling and doing guest roles on other shows. If he would listen to his agent, Marvin Schwarz, (a terrific Al Pacino, “Danny Collins”) and move to Italy to make a few Spaghetti Westerns, he could be on top again.
But, Rick’s not interested. He wants to stay in Tinseltown and be known as a Hollywood legend.
Rick’s stunt double and trusted friend, Cliff Booth (a fine Brad Pitt, “Deadpool 2”) wishes he had options like Rick. He does OK in the biz, but the former Vietnam War vet, would love to do more.
Cliff’s checkered past may have something to do with him not getting additional work. We know it’s sure not his looks. Rumor has it Cliff murdered his wife and got away with it. That kind of creeps people out like his stunt coordinator Randy (Kurt Russell, “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2”), but mostly it’s Randy’s wife Zoë Bell (“The Hateful Eight”) who doesn’t want Cliff around.
Still, Rick and Cliff are meant for each other. They spend time together driving around Hollywood and chugging beer and pizza at Rick’s house while reminding each other just how much a big deal they are.
Hollywood better recognize.
One night, Cliff takes Rick home. When they arrive at his house they notice his next-door neighbor, Roman Polanski (“Rosemary’s Baby”) and his wife Sharon Tate (a good, but underused Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”). It’s a rare sighting for Rick to see them and he’s fascinated by the turn of events.
There are several familiar and new faces scattered throughout “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.”
All of them leave lasting impressions too, from a sensational Margaret Qualley, Austin Butler (Manson family member Charles “Tex Watson), Damon Herriman (As Charles Manson) and Dakota Fanning (Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme), to Mike Moh channeling Bruce Lee, upcoming star Julia Butters (TV’s “American Housewife”), Lena Dunham (TV’s “Girls”) and Bruce Dern as George Spahn, the guy who rented his LA ranch out for Western movie productions and allowed Manson and his followers to live there.
While “Once upon a Time in Hollywood” starts off a bit helter-skelter, there’s a method to Tarantino’s madness. There are a few sagging parts during the film’s 161 minutes run time, but overall, they don’t distract from this outstanding Hollywood tale which culminates in pure Tarantino style.
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is Tarantino’s ninth movie. It’s also one of his best.
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Check Out This Trailer For "ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), The Black Film Critics Circle (BFCC), The Alliance Of Women Film Journalists (AWFJ) and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.