It finally arrived. Former video store clerk turned filmmaker Quentin Tarantino dropped Once Upon a Time in Hollywood this week and it was a full on love letter to the town that has made him a household name – Hollywood.
Tarantino transports the audience back to 1969 and a time in Hollywood where film stars were reluctantly coming to work on television series and television stars were trying to become movie stars. Enter Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), the bigger than life star of ‘Bounty Law’ and his ex-veteran/stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) who allegedly murdered his wife and got away with it. Dalton is struggling with his confidence after his hit show was cancelled and his film career basically at a standstill.
Those of us who live in Los Angeles and those who may be enticed to visit as tourist will get a kick out of many popular locales peppered throughout the film like restaurants Musso & Frank, El Coyote, Casa Vega, popular premiere spots like The Bruin Theatre in Westwood and Hollywood’s Cineramadome. In addition to old TV Guide’s, Mannix, Playboy Mansion, Spahn’s Ranch, Cielo Drive in the Hollywood Hills and cameos by such stars as Rumor Willis, Damian Lewis, Michael Madsen (to name a few) and a groovy 60’s soundtrack that enhances the action most entertainingly.
Of course, what would a Tarantino joint be without a little controversy attached to it. First, the late Burt Reynolds passed away before shooting his scene (Bruce Dern stepped in to save the day), former 90210 heartthrob and Riverdale star Luke Perry passed away and that now infamous question by a reporter at the Cannes Film festival that Tarantino refused to answer concerning Margot Robbie’s lack of dialogue. Not to mention, all the industry gossiping around Sharon Tate, Charlie Manson and that fateful night in the Hollywood Hills. All any of this did was intrigue journalists and audiences to devour the film as it hits theatres today. Not to mention very strong feeling regarding the portrayal of Bruce Lee by Mike Moh.
How do I feel about it all? Here we go! Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio are stars. Period. They have that same magical chemistry that I remember happening with the pairing of Robert Redford and Paul Newman. It was everything!!! Pitt’s best moment is at the Spahn Ranch and DiCaprio’s scene with Julia Butters is the best scene in the movie. There’s also a hilarious scene with DiCaprio in his trailer that a lot of actors will totally get and howl when they watch it!
Margot Robbie as the late Sharon Tate plays homage to the free, honest, trusting spirit of slain actress. This is especially apparent as she delights in watching herself onscreen for the first time amongst a movie theatre full of strangers. in ‘The Wrecking Crew’ with Dean Martin.
We all know that Tarantino films are known just as much for their comedic sensibility as their violent content. There is just a smatter of violence in the last 20 minutes of the film and it’s not terribly gory or gross. Having said ALL of that, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood is entertaining from a nostalgic point of view, but not terribly as strong and grounded as his previous work. It’s interesting that most of the men I spoke to afterwards absolutely LOVED the film and most of the women I spoke with weren’t too enamored.
As for me, I am conflicted. I’m a huge fan of the filmmaker and his work. But, as much as it pains me to say this I just wasn’t bowled over by this one. Not to mention his artistic re-imagining regarding the Manson murders felt disrespectful to the memory of those who were slain. Produced by Columbia Pictures, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood drops TODAY, so take a group of friends, judge for yourself and hit me up with your thoughts and observations.