Movie Review - Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

A sly take on Hollywood’s past glory

Tarantino’s latest, his 9th film and the first without #MeToo beleaguered Harvey Weinstein as producer, has faux retro realism as backdrop for a brutal and shocking endplay.

A sly take on Hollywood’s past glory

A still from Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Johnson Thomas

Tarantino’s latest, his 9th film and the first without #MeToo beleaguered Harvey Weinstein as producer, has faux retro realism as backdrop for a brutal and shocking endplay. Set in the late 60’s at the time of the Manson cult murders, this film’s narrative follows the fictional Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), a fading TV and movie star and his stuntman/drinking buddy/gofer Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), as they try to live it up during what is said to be the end of the golden era in Hollywood. No prizes for guessing which one of them represents Bruce Wayne and which is Dick Grayson.

Tarantino weaves an intriguing set-up that takes us down the memory lane in retro western regalia associated with Italian born spaghetti westerns. Tarantino’s film is not so much a spin on the Manson Family murders, than it is a flirtation with the love-hate relationship that Hollywood cognoscenti have with spaghetti Westerns. Rick Dalton is in fact an ironical embodiment of that love-hate experience. His fading movie career leads him to success on TV and rekindling of hope that a revival of   mass interest for Westerns might give his waning career new life on the silver screen. His contempt for that genre of cinema is only outweighed by his desperate need for recognition and success. Manson’s ghost like presence and Sharon Tate’s (Margot Robbie) existence permeate the narrative, no doubt, but Tarantino is certainly far more invested in Rick and Cliff’s misadventures here. Tate is just a glorified weapon meant to solidify Tarantino’s impression of machismo and misogyny in Hollywood best exemplified by Cliff’s comic face-off with Bruce Lee (Mike Moh) and the shocking, almost inexplicable climax that leaves Tate, a mere bystander.

The script, though unduly expansive in exposition, has well defined characters. The narrative feels a little indulgent in terms of runtime but the accompanied benefits of interest-inducing cinematography, a befitting score, superbly distinct period entailment and above all a flurry of high profile cameos (including Al Pacino, Luke Perry in his last role, Burt Reynolds, Kurt Russell, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern and many more) weigh in to make this an intriguing, fairly distinctive experience — even though typical Tarantino thrills are kept to a minimum!

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