Tuesday, August 20, 2019

[Review] Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood

If there’s one thing you can say about the work of Quentin Tarantino, it’s that he always brings a wily spectacle to the screen. So it makes complete sense for him to ride into the outlaw pastures of old-time Hollyweird, and that’s exactly what he does with the tinsel-titled Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood. The film is stacked with an all-star cast, and it kicks its feet up on the table as an amusing view of a fascinating and often ugly world. 

It takes place during the year 1969 in sprawling Los Angeles, and it follows fading Western TV actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his longtime buddy and stuntman Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) as they not-so-gracefully navigate the decline of their entertainment careers. Lurking in the backdrop are members of the Manson family, which gives the film an uneasy edge. In other words, we know that something fucked up is gonna happen eventually. 

Like many of Tarantino’s efforts, this thing is LONG and its plot meanders, backtracks, and hits dead ends like the dense roads of the Hollywood Hills. But you know what? This unfocused mess is thoroughly entertaining to witness. Much of the film skirts along with a sweaty, beer-buzzed energy through smarmy studio lots and movie set antics. The picture is expertly shot — even the films-within-a-film look fantastic. As expected, DiCaprio is great here. He revels in the role with enthusiasm and hilarity (and a funny mustache) and he looks to be having a blast, which is a big part in why the film is so enjoyable. Pitt plays well off of DiCaprio, bringing a grizzled veteran charisma to the escapades. Margot Robbie rounds out the cast as Sharon Tate, and Al Pacino shows up as a producer with a self-aware wink.  

This film is like a vintage late-night drive to a party that is bound to go off the rails. A comical, and sometimes cartoony dream in sun-drenched tints. A pop culture obsessed farce. And it all builds to a fiery, biting, ultra-violent ending. The jarring conclusion is less of a re-enactment of an event and more of a complete twist on history — a satisfying revenge fantasy carried out to the extreme. After all, Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood really is a fairytale.

( 8/10 )

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