Bringing the past back to life in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

The ninth film from Quentin Tarantino is ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD – one wild and very memorable ride back to Los Angeles in 1969.

Writer/director, cinematic genius Quentin Tarantino brings us his ninth film with ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD and what a wild and very memorable experience it is. Is he really hanging up his movie spurs after his tenth film as he’s intimated? Say it isn’t so! He’s just such a daringly original force on the silver screen that we’d miss him. Ever since seeing his memorable debut Reservoir Dogs in 1992 whilst being an usher at the Cornerhouse cinemas in Manchester, I’ve been a fan. And ONCE UPON A TIME… is one of those rare creatures, a movie that is so beautifully paced (by Tarantino and his editor Fred Raskin) that 2 hours and 41 minutes zip by effortlessly in a gorgeous and delirious blur.

Leonardo DiCaprio is Rick Dalton and Brad Pitt is Cliff Booth

Leonardo DiCaprio as actor Rick Dalton and Brad Pitt as his stuntman Cliff Booth discuss the future

As you’d expect from Mr Tarantino, we have another rich tapestry of characters inhabiting his spot-on recreation of Hollywood in 1969. And, of course, to play those characters he’s not just aced it with his cast this time, he’s knocked it out of the park. Leonardo DiCaprio is Rick Dalton, a once-successful television star whose fame is growing ever dimmer as he sinks into a deeper depression at the state of his career. Brad Pitt is Cliff Booth, Rick’s stunt double and longtime friend who now is increasingly responsible for every aspect of Rick’s life in order to keep him functioning. The world they inhabit is changing. We’re watching the end of the golden age of Hollywood as new artists mark their mark on the movie industry. And one such artist is director Roman Polanski (Polish actor Rafal Zawierucha), a hot property courtesy of the recent hit thriller Rosemary’s Baby. With his wife, the actress Sharon Tate (an uncanny lookalike in the brilliant Margot Robbie) they are Rick’s new neighbours.

And so the stage is set for Tarantino to explore the world of Los Angeles in 1969 through three specific days and how Hollywood would be forever changed after the events of August 9 when members of the cult leader Charles Manson’s “family” murdered Tate and a number of friends at her house. In his customary, super-clever way, Tarantino meshes fictional characters with real-life ones in order to examine the impact of this moment in time – as he did so brilliantly with Inglourious Basterds. Rick, Cliff and Sharon come into contact with the likes of Steve McQueen (Damian Lewis), Bruce Lee (Mike Moh), George Spahn (Bruce Dern), and Charles Manson (Damon Herriman) as well as up-and-coming 8-year old actor Trudi (a standout Julia Butters), agent Marvin Schwarz (a fab cameo from Al Pacino) and hitchhiker Pussycat (a superb Margaret Qualley). There’s also a host of other Tarantino regulars and fantastic actors who pop up in other roles too so keep your eyes peeled.

Margot Robbie is Sharon Tate

Margot Robbie’s Sharon enjoys Hollywood life

I can’t discuss any more of the plot for ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD as it’s best discovered by you when you see it. But this is vintage Tarantino, where the dialogue is as witty and sharp as ever, like this exchange between Bruce Lee and Cliff,

“You know you’re kinds pretty for a stuntman.

That’s what people tell me.”

It’s all shot exquisitely by the venerable cinematographer Robert Richardson and the Los Angeles of 1969 is beautifully recreated by production designer Barbara Ling. Of course, there’s a killer soundtrack with a collection of music and songs from the period which is the icing on the cake of Tarantino’s confection. Apart from DiCaprio and Pitt who, in a casting coup that many have noted match the illustrious pairing of Paul Newman and Robert Redford, are simply sublime, putting in performances that are awards-worthy and rank as amongst the best of their respective careers.

I saw the movie in the cinema as a celebration of the fact that it’s shot on film and so if you can catch it there, do. But do not miss it if you can only see the movie on-demand or DVD – this is one of the films of the year.