Brush up on your late 60s history for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Warning: minor spoilers ahead
Whether you’re a fan of his or not, Quentin Tarantino has undeniably made a name for himself as a director and as a writer. His signature moves—pop culture references littered in the script, shots of women’s feet and a repeat of actors and fictional companies—make his films. It’s just a matter of how strongly he marks his territory.
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is the director’s ninth film, the second to the last of his career (so he says). Some will say that it’s no Pulp Fiction and Inglorious Basterds—well, no shit; but it doesn’t make it any less Tarantino.
The film, as the title suggests, is Tarantino’s take on Hollywood back in 1969. Simply put, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood follows the careers of Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), a once-acclaimed Western actor, and his stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Together, they suffer the inevitability of old age and potential irrelevance in an industry that demands more than talent.
To complicate things, however, Tarantino litters fiction with non-fiction in the form of pop culture heavy hitters Bruce Lee (Mike Moh), Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and Charles Manson (Damon Herriman).
Leonardo DiCaprio, I love you. You too, Brad Pitt. Hi, Margot Robbie
I’m not going to say that Once Upon A Time In Hollywood showcases the best of Leonardo DiCaprio, but it comes pretty damn close. There are few actors of his generation that can encompass and control emotion quite like him and it is—as always—a privilege to watch the slightest movements of his face that make the difference between “Fuck, I feel for you” and “What the fuck are you crying about?”
Brad Pitt, on the other hand, proves he still is very much ~the man~ we’ve learned to associate him with: strong, sassy and shirtless. Call it typecasting, but it works; let’s not forget that the film is about two individuals struggling with the end of their careers, after all. #NoShade
Margot Robbie is a charming little dancer
An ode to Hollywood, past and present
It has been said over and over, but Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is no doubt Tarantino’s love letter to old and present Hollywood. Does the director criticize? Yes. But does he also admire? Absolutely.
The film is beautifully shot and gives us a look at the history and potential of the Hollywood of decades’ past. The fashion, the culture, what worked and what didn’t, who was in and who was out, the cars that raged the road—it was all there. Without a doubt, an era—an era that continues to define so much—was encapsulated with a loving flourish we can only expect of Tarantino.
But oh, we are not Quentin Tarantino
While some films use up their screen time to build to the climax, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood demands that you know your shit for all the pieces of the puzzle to fit together. It expects you to know Charles Manson, his family and what they were capable of. It assumes that you’ve heard of the Sharon Tate murder—and if you haven’t, then you’re setting yourself up for a rather less-than-satisfying finish.
So here’s some unsolicited advice: Read up and get yourself acquainted with these two figures before you head inside that cinema.
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood premieres in Philippine cinemas on August 28, 2019. Does it deserve a watch? To cut to the chase: yes. The 165-minute film goes by quickly, threading seemingly irrelevant subplots together to give you that bang-for-buck we all seem to be searching for. It takes you away, leaving you completely engrossed—and leaves you with an unsure feeling, questioning what to take away.
If Tarantino had his way, if he was the god he is in the multi-verse he created, what would things be like now? Scary fucking possibility, isn’t it?
Art Alexandra Lara