From a legendary director comes a fairytale that’s all about Hollywood. Once upon a time….in Hollywood is the 9th film by Quentin Tarantino that combines nostalgia, quirkiness & star performances while weaving together fictional characters with actual ones.
Once upon a time, a fading star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprico) is trying to revive his career while his stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) his only buddy offers encouragement & support whenever necessary. His megastar neighbours are Roman Polanski & Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie).
The leads are incredible. The internal struggle DiCaprico manifests is mesmerizing. He is unsure of himself. Brad Pitt is handsome yet calm & funny sometimes. He shows loyalty without expecting anything in return which is rare these days. His fight with Bruce Lee (Mike Moh) is a treat to watch. Margot Robbie brings joy as she watches her own film The Wrecking Crew in a theatre just to see the audience’s reaction. But for the rest of the story, she is sidelined.
The marquee leads obviously drive the narrative but the movie feels most enjoyable in its smaller moments e.g. Rick starring in 60’s T.V. show called Bounty Law or in a amazing fake movie The Fourteen Fists of McCluskey. The breezy way the story incorporates L.A. landmarks & songs from that era is nostalgic. It plays like a work of someone trying to understand the world he glimpsed as a kid growing in the 60’s L.A.
It seems throughout the film that Tarantino is having a lot of fun. Like his previous films, he retains his strongest traits here- dialogues. His lines are athletic, quirky, twisting, turning, outpacing each other winking at their own cleverness. The sheer brutality of violence in the third act is as gratuitous as it gets. I saw most people laughing hard at those scenes. If Scorcese brings naturalism to violence, Tarantino adds a narcotic effect to it. Once upon a time….. revisits some familiar Tarantino’s elements but also introduces new tricks- an urge to step beyond familiar genre, an openness to look beyond the most obvious influences of his past work.
After all this is his love letter to the golden Hollywood era- a film seen through the eyes of a regular customer at a video rental store who dreamed of making films & got a chance to change the modern cinematic landscape with Reservoir Dogs & Pulp Fiction.