In Once Upon A Time... in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino takes on 1969 with pop culture precision and aplomb. Audacious, rockin', and funny in spots, this is more an homage to an era that would be transformed by the Manson Family's murder spree in Beverly Hills. If Woodstock created an aura of peace, love and happiness, the Manson murders shattered that hippie idealism instantly. And Tarantino has decided to shatter that aura yet again in the last 15 minutes of his film. Albeit in a rewrite of history, much like he did in his brilliant fantasy WWII war film Inglourious Basterds. His latest movie lacks any real plot and is more an homage or perhaps a "love letter" to old Hollywood. The struggle of the actors (and stuntmen) that seek to maintain the relevance in a world that would as soon discard them for the next star-in-waiting.
Leonardo DiCaprio as fading TV star Rick Dalton (of Bounty Hunt) and Brad Pitt as his longtime stuntman Cliff Booth are terrific in their scenes together, you can feel an authentic chemistry between the two actors. Could they be the perfect pairing for a remake of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? Pitt did play him the prequel and there was chatter a few years ago about Pitt and George Clooney in a remake. No coincidence that that film was released in 1969. And Tarantino did state in a press conference during CinemaCon in Vegas back in April that:
"Sony and myself will be coming to the theaters with the most exciting star dynamic since Paul Newman and Robert Redford."
Clocking in at 2 hours and 45-minutes, the movie does sag in the middle, an edit of 15-20 minutes would have definitely helped. But like all of his films, Tarantino's recreation of the era is painstakingly accurate. From his black and white early '60's TV shows and sets to the rock and pop music of the era -- always a plus in his movies -- to him recreating blocks of Hollywood Boulevard, the filmmaker lets the audience "feel" the era on the big screen. You almost taste the endless cigarette smoking in cars, bars, movie trailers, and houses in the hills of Beverly. And there are plenty of guest spots with veteran actors like Kurt Russell, Mike Madsen, Al Pacino, Timothy Olyphant, Bruce Dern, and Luke Perry (RIP).
Sadly the stunning Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate doesn't have a lot to say or do in this movie, her most memorable scene is watching herself in the Dean Martin Matt Helm film The Wrecking Crew. As she sits in a Hollywood Boulevard movie theater she's thrilled to watch the audience's positive reaction to her comedic scenes. Major shoutout to 10-year old actor Julia Butters who plays Trudi on the fictitious TV show Lancer. It's truly a scene stealing moment with DiCaprio. His character Rick Dalton has the epiphany that she's a rising star and his star is nearly extinguished. Her dialogue is so fluid and beautiful with him, it will melt your heart. While this is not the best film from Tarantino, it's certainly a worthwhile way to spend three hours on a hot summer's day.