Four years on from mixed critical 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 combining truly stunning cinematography with beautiful character driven performances. Not only submerging you in a hypnotic mix of fantasy versus reality. But also creating 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 reverberating in changing world. Reflecting both the light and darkness of a city built on dreams and fantasy. While also reflecting the ultimate mid life disappointment of the hopes and dreams we create in youth.
Tarantino splits the narrative into three distinct groups of people in 1969 Los Angeles. Slowly building to convergence of all three stories. While reflecting the 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.
While Cliff himself 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 reflect two sides of the same coin, 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 reflecting the move from studio controlled Hollywood 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 too slowly and methodically building a sense of tension. While allowing his amazing cast to take the reins as they each plunge into the emotion and social depth of each character. Allowing the audience to build empathy and understanding, while also feeling a part of the wider cinematic journey.
However, as you find yourself swept away in the sublime performances of the central cast. Tarantino suddenly launches into his trademark action. With a final act of utterly audacious grandeur, that plays with the divide between reality and fiction.
From the opening 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. Equally combined with 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