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REVIEW: Tarantino’s love letter to Hollywood is his most personal film to date

It’s 1969 and Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), the star of Western TV show Bounty Lawis coming to the unhappy realisation that his star is fading. His agent Marvin Schwarz (Al Pacino) telling rick that his only option is to head to Italy to star in Spaghetti Westerns.

Rick laments this to his long-time stunt double and driver Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) and the pair are left to navigate a Hollywood that is slowly but steadily moving on without them.

Concurrent to Rick and Cliff’s story, is the tale of Rick’s recent next-door neighbours Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha).

Blonde ingenue Sharon Tate was brutally murdered, along with hairstylist Jay Seabring (Emile Hirsch) and friends Abigail Folger and Wojciech Frykowski by Tex Watson, Susan Atkins Linda Kasabian and Patricia Krenwinkel, under the malignant direction of Charles Manson.

However, if you’ve seen such Tarantino fare as Inglourious Basterds, you’d know he’s fond of bending historical truths and he is in full revisionist mode here.

So, strap yourself in and enjoy the ride!

Should I watch it?

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Tarantino’s ninth and apparently penultimate film is a definite slow burn. It is much more of a moody character-driven piece than a film driven largely by plot.

Much like the meandering roads of Los Angeles (which the characters frequently travel throughout), this film takes its sweet time and in the hands of Tarantino, that is not a problem at all.

There are more film-fanboy references here than you can poke a stick at and Tarantino’s late 1960s Los Angeles has been lovingly recreated with meticulous detail.

Despite making a name for himself as being the modern king of over-the-top cinema violence, there is little to be had here. Having said that though, when the visceral action kicks off you might want to hold on to your seat because it does get messy – very messy!

Overall the cinematography gives off a breezy vibe save for a creepy and tense scene at the Spahn Movie Ranch (home to the Manson family) and foreboding shots of the future scene of the infamous Tate/LaBianca murders.

Aside from the soundtrack (one of the best in recent memory) the definite standout here is the chemistry between DiCaprio and Pitt. Here, these two screen giants exude an effortless bromance vibe reminiscent of the likes of Paul Newman and Robert Redford.

Honestly, if there are not best and supporting actor noms for this pair, something is truly rotten in the state of Hollywood.

Overall the film comes off as a highly personal one for Tarantino with comparisons to his career and that of leading man Rick Dalton not too outlandish.

While Once Upon A Time In Hollywood isn’t going to spark a cinematic revolution like Pulp Fiction, it is arguably Tarantino’s most complete film and one that shows an auteur back in top form after a couple of slight misses.

5 stars

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Release Date:
In cinemas now
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsh, Dakota Fanning, Al Pacino, Bruce Dern, Luke Perry, Timothy Olyphant, Kurt Russell

Written by Stephen Bisset