Quentin Tarantino’s 9th film “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood” is billed as a tribute to the ending of Hollywood’s “Golden Age” and tribute it does. The entire movie is a love letter to the film industry, lifestyle and fashion included, of the late 60’s – of which Tarantino inserts so much detail that it becomes weighed down unnecessarily and loses much of the momentum that the beginning of this 2 hour and 45 minute tale starts.
Fortunately, the film is saved by a remarkable ending – and gory, I mean this is a Quentin Tarantino story – which is a re-imagined telling of the infamous Charles Manson murders in August 1969, when pregnant actress Sharon Tate was savagely killed in her home along with four friends. Side note: the late Rick James’s autobiography “Glow” with biographer David Ritz shares an interesting story about his invite to the Tate home that night by a mutual friend, the late Jay Sebring.
The story is woven together around the friendship and work relationship of TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) as they navigate an industry that is rapidly changing. While Dalton’s neighbor and budding film actress Sharon Tate’s (Margot Robbie) career is blossoming, with the release of the new Dean Martin movie “The Wrecking Crew,” his is slowing and subsequently affecting Booth’s options as well.
Throw in some kick ass cameos – Kurt Douglas, Al Pacino, and the late Luke Perry to name a few – and this movie has the star power to immediately insert into classic territory.
However, the fact that the movie could have been pared down to at most two hours, and the story less convoluted, makes Tarantino’s great attention to the details seem tedious and the film less entertaining.
What was highly entertaining? The magnetic chemistry between Pitt and DiCaprio, who make the ultimate on-screen buddy duo, a really humorous (albeit extremely unbelievable) scene between Pitt’s Booth and Bruce Lee played by Mike Moh, a really cool soundtrack, and the amazingly authentic costume and set designs – including a flashback to a fictional appearance by a singing Rick Dalton on the old 60’s show Hullabaloo.
And then there’s the strong performance by 10-year-old Julia Butters, who is dynamic alongside DiCaprio as a young actress cast in a Western with the aging Dalton. She is one to keep an eye out for as her star will surely continue to rise.
The film definitely highlights Tarantino’s maturity as a storyteller – wasn’t “overly” rampant with ethnic slurs and violence. But maybe the lengthiness of the story can also be attributed to that maturity – I mean we all have that older relative that can turn a five minute story into a forty five minute one at the drop of a hat!
In sum, “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood” is entertaining when Tarantino’s need to throw in every nostalgic nook and cranny isn’t interfering. And I have a great appreciation for how the Tate murder night is retold and believe the payoff was well worth it. I give the movie 3.5 out of 5 on the MMTrometer.
Until next thought, Thomasena