Once Upon A Time in Hollywood


D: Quentin Tarantino 

Sony/Columbia/Heyday/Bona Film Group/Visiona Romantica (David Heyman, Shannon McIntosh & Quentin Tarantino)

US/UK 2019

161 mins


W: Quentin Tarantino

DP: Robert Richardson

Ed: Fred Raksin

PD: Barbara Ling

Cos: Arianne Phillips

Leonardo DiCaprio (Rick Dalton), Brad Pitt (Cliff Booth), Margot Robbie (Sharon Tate), Emile Hirsch (Jay Sebring), Margaret Qualley (Pussycat), Timothy Olyphant (James Stacy), Julia Butters (Trudi Fraser), Austin Butler (Tex), Dakota Fanning (Squeaky), Bruce Dern (George Spahn), Al Pacino (Marvin Schwarz)

"The 9th Film from Quentin Tarantino" is a bit of a novelty and one which will certainly prove divisive amongst audience members. The film doesn't really belong to a specific genre and could generally be summed up as a fictional real-crime drama, building up around the murder of actress Sharon Tate by the Manson Family, but then doing its own thing with historical facts in the same way that Tarantino treated WWII in Inglourious Basterds.

The story is mostly shown from the viewpoint of Rick Dalton, a struggling actor trying to make the transition from television to the big screen in the twilight of Hollywood's "Golden Age", and Cliff Booth, a temperamental stuntman with a bad reputation who mostly works as Rick's lackey rather than on a film set.  Sharon Tate's character (played by Margot Robbie) is on the periphery of the story for most of the film, glimpsed only briefly in the swanky Beverly Hills neighbourhood as the events build up to the night of her brutal murder.

It's a film which could easily be brushed off as a Shaggy Dog story (akin to films like The Big Lebowski) where a lot of things happen without a lot actually happening and there's no real payoff, but Tarantino is a purposeful storyteller and the way he shoots his films, the audience ought to know that everything that ends up in the final cut is there for a reason. In short, this could be for Tarantino's career what North By Northwest was for Alfred Hitchcock's, a blend of thriller, comedy and film noir as well as a tribute to the filmmaker's previous works. The usual QT trademarks are all on display, long scenes of dialogue with emphasis on character, excellent cinematography, a compendium of 60's hits on the soundtrack and references to actors, movies and TV shows that served as an inspiration to Tarantino when he was growing up.

This is very much Tarantino's tribute to a Golden Age Hollywood that many say died when the Manson Family committed the Tate murder. It won't be everyone's cup of tea and is certainly not an instantly gratifying film due to its cryptic plot, as well as being about half an hour too long, but it's a movie which will stick in the mind and will require some afterthought to work out exactly what Tarantino is trying to say here. Personally, I love films which provide this sort of discourse.


Brad Pitt & Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Brad Pitt & Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood