Review: Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood (18)

By now, I think we all know that this is Quentin Tarantino’s Ninth movie and by all accounts the master of the unexpected has said that he is calling it a day.

I’m not sure I could do that. I would have to end on an even number. But then again I’m a bit OCD.

Whether you like or hate his movies, you have to admit that Tarantino is something of an enigma. On the one hand he is one of the most original movie directors to come out of Hollywood but on the other hand he tends to take his inspiration from a vast body of films that he has had affection for.

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DiCaprio as Actor Rick Dalton

For example the (1974) Heist movie, ‘The Taking of Pelham One Two Three’ inspired Tarantino to copy the way all of the crew of the bank robbers in Reservoir Dogs (1992) had colours in their name such as Mr.Pink and Mr.Orange.

Well he is back on form with his new movie set in Twinsell Town, Los Angeles during 1969. We follow two likeable characters and friends working in the movie & TV industry.

Film and TV actor Rick Dalton ( Leonardo DiCaprio) and his Stunt double buddy and all round gopher Cliff Booth (Brad Pit).

Rick had a great TV career in the Fifties playing a Bounty Hunter in an extremely popular Western. But as the show moved on and was cancelled, Rick was forced to take on bit part roles as bad guys in other TV series and has accepted that he is somewhat of a has been now in the Sixties.

His Stunt man and confidant Cliff, has stood by him and still on the pay role but he has a genuine liking for his boss and the two men have this Butch and  Sundance, buddy buddy thing going on.

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Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate

This is the era of free love and the hippy generation and at that time in 1969, we had the notorious Charles Manson on the scene recruiting young women into his commune, brainwashing them to do his nasty work.

Rick just happens to live in the famous and exclusive Hollywood hills and his neighbour is the actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and the director Roman Polanski. So we know that there is possible danger in the air.

Meanwhile back on the movie set, we find our two protagonists mixing it up with a few Tarantino favourites with some cameos along the way.

There is a funny scene when the great Bruce Lee (played by Mike Moh, with an uncanny resemblance to Lee) challenges Stunt man Cliff to a fight in front of his other boss Kurt Russell.

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Stunt Man Cliff (Pitt) takes on the Legendary Bruce Lee (Mike Moh)

There are also appearances from Al Pacino as a movie agent trying to convince Rick to stop playing these bad guy roles as his career will nose dive and tries to get Rick to move into the Spaghetti Western market as that is where the money is.

Damian Lewis pops up as the coolest actor to be on the big screen Steve McQueen and actually does an ok job. Timothy Olyphant Plays the good gunslinger to Caprio’s bad guy and the late Luke Perry has a small part which you can easily miss.

In fact the Western that Rick was acting in back in the Fifties was based on a McQueen TV series called ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’ before he was a successful movie star.

DiCaprio is brilliant as the fallen actor trying to rejuvenate his former glory and gets a wake up call from a young 10-year old pretentious actress Trudi (Julie Butters) as the two of them read books together between takes.

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Trudi (Julie Butters)

However, the outstanding performance for me was Brad Pitt who seems to strut around without a care in the world and brushing off claims that he killed his own wife and got away with it.

Brad Pitt also has some of the best lines and laughs. Not to mention a loving dog.

I’m in that category of people who actually remember events in 1969 (I was 8 going on 9). So I knew many of the references of the many TV programs that are mentioned through t the film and also the famous characters and actors of the time.

Just a bit disappointed that  the Western ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ wasn’t referenced, especially as it was the biggest film of that year.

As you can expect, Tarantino has put together a great 1969 soundtrack.

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Cliff, Rick and Agent Marvin Scharz (Al Pacino)

Trivia: Actor Nicholas Hammond who plays Sam Wanamaker directing Rick in the Western movie was also a has been in his life time. He appeared in ‘The Sound of Music’ (1965) as Friedrich but was also the first TV Spider-Man (1977-1979)

A great  film and very clever.

In cinemas now

Running time: 2hr.41

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