Reel Reviews: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

By Josh Simpkins

For those who follow my musings, you all know I love me some Quentin Tarantino. His screenplays and films, or shall I say his writing and directing style, are second to none in my opinion. Not once have I been disappointed in a Tarantino production. The way he crafts his characters and subsequent dialog is masterful. With his filmmaking career rapidly coming to the end of the trail, (he says he only wants to make 10 QT original films and he counts Kill Bill as one film), we only have a couple more Tarantino gems coming down the pipe. His latest film, QT OG film #9, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood—starring Leonardo DiCaprio (Django Unchained), Brad Pitt (Inglourious Basterds), Al Pacino (in his Tarantino feature debut), Margot Robbie (in her Tarantino feature debut), and Mike Moh (in his Tarantino feature debut)—may very well be Tarantino’s finest filmmaking endeavor since Pulp Fiction.

Circa 1969, Los Angeles; Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood follows faded television star Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Pitt) as the duo make their way around an industry they hardly recognize anymore. Unable to get full-time work, Rick has resigned himself to special guest spots on other star’s programs, while poor Cliff is stuck working for Rick as a glorified chuffer having been blackballed for an incident involving Bruce Lee (Moh) on the set of The Green Hornet. Fortunately for the down-on-their-luck duo, film producer Marvin Schwarz (Pacino) has taken an interest in Rick and wants him for a series of Italian films and spaghetti westerns. Rick is hesitant at first, but when a bigtime Polish movie director and his starlet wife Sharon Tate (Robbie) buy the property next door, Rick’s opinions begin to change. Meanwhile, Cliff gives a pretty little hitchhiker a lift out to Spahn ranch where he is introduced to some of the leading members of the Manson Family. Tensions arise when Cliff questions the motives of some two dozen hippies taking advantage of a blind old man but leaves before real trouble ensues. Rick takes Marvin’s offer with the addendum that Cliff work as his stuntman and the dynamic duo head off to make moving pictures in Italy.

There is so much more to the story, but I fear treading too far into spoiler territory, so I am stopping the synopsis here. This ninth film from one of my top five favorite writer-directors features a large ensemble cast, converging multiple storylines—as is Tarantino’s way— in a tribute to the final moments of Hollywood’s golden age. The writing is superb, the acting is of the highest caliber with Tarantino commanding and coaxing brilliant performances from each one of his actors. If you are a Tarantino fan, or a fan of great original films, or a fan of the era that is the ‘60s this film will delight and entertain. Now, head on over to your local cinema and have some fun at the movies.

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