Four year’s on from the mixed reviews of The Hateful Eight. Tarantino’s ninth feature provides us with a mature, visually stunning and nuanced piece of filmmaking. One that holds your attention, despite its slower pace. While in turn combining truly stunning cinematography with beautiful character driven performances. Not only submerging the audience in a hypnotic mix of fantasy versus reality. But also creating a genre defying piece of cinematic art.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood feels like a reflective thought piece. With Tarantino pointing his lens at a Hollywood studio system reverberating with generational change. Reflecting both the light and dark of a city built on dreams and fantasy. While also exploring the mid life disappointment of the hopes and dreams we create in youth.
Tarantino splits the narrative into three distinct paths, each one circling around 1969 Los Angeles. Slowly building to a convergence of all three stories. While encapsulating the diverse mosaic of late 60s culture in a rapidly changing Hollywood system.
Rick Dalton (DiCaprio), is a washed up and anxious TV and film star, desperately trying to revive his ailing career. While His friend and one time stunt double Cliff Booth (Pitt) is now a mere gofer to Dalton’s emotional needs. Meanwhile, Cliff carries the sole and confidence of younger man alongside deep rooted secrets. His stunt career drawing to a close. While rumours pervade that he killed his wife on a boating trip.
Both men ultimately reflecting two sides of the same coin. With one desperately clinging to the fantasy of being an all action hero. While the other happily lives on the edges of society, his life a whirlwind of testosterone and secrets.
Living next door to Rick, yet equally isolated in their own Hollywood bubble. The younger generation of talent grow and nurture their careers. With Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) and hairdresser Jay Sebring (Emile Hirsch) enjoying a whirlwind of success. While also embracing the changes of a Hollywood moving from the studio dominance of the 60s to freedom of 1970s. The new guard of the Hollywood system bringing fresh ideas while slowly challenging the older Hollywood elite.
Meanwhile, sitting in the corners of the sunshine soaked city, we have the growing darkness of the Manson cult. His growing band of followers seeping through the streets and backlots of the Hollywood dream.
Unlike many previous outings, Tarantino is in no rush to jump into the action. Instead taking his time in slowly and methodically building a sense of tension. While gently steering the audience toward the finale in a manner that never allows for complacency in viewing. Ultimately allowing his cast to shine with sublime performances of depth and complexity.
However, as you find yourself swept away in the performances. Tarantino suddenly plays his trump card, with an audacious final act. While equally gloriously playing with divide between fact and fiction, in a way only he could muster.
From the opening scenes to closing credits Once Upon a Time in Hollywood feels far more personal than many of Tarantino’s previous films. Laced with a sadness at the slow erosion of creativity and risk in filmmaking. While equally combining a sense of mourning as the Hollywood system of iconic stars and celluloid takes a final bow.
For some Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will be too slow, lacking the spark they seek from a Tarantino film. But for those who believe that Hollywood must find its creativity again, celebrate risk and allow visionary talent to thrive. This is a film that sings as both director and cast work in unison to create a work of cinematic art.
Director: Quentin Tarantino