Once Upon A Time ... In Hollywood

***

Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
"Tarantino's on good form but there are moments in the middle of the 165-minute marathon where it flags before mustering for its finale." | Photo: Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

Like an infant with a box full of toys, Quentin Tarantino loves playing with the notions of cinema, throwing it all up in the air and seeing how it lands.

Clearly he is having loads of fun with this tale of Los Angeles and its star spangled inhabitants in the late Sixties - the period when he was growing up as youngster. The upbeat mood at the start of Once Upon A Time ... In Hollywood is infectious as washed-up Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), a cult star of TV Westerns, and his long-standing stand-in Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) meander their way through the vicissitudes of an industry undergoing sea changes.

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This is the end of Hollywood’s so-called golden age and the pair find it difficult to eke out a place for themselves in the new order. The duo at one point hive off to Italy to make spaghetti Westerns and Dalton comes back with a wife in tow, who is installed in his home in the Hollywood hills.

Margot Robbie gives a great turn as Sharon Tate, who pops in to a local cinema to see herself on screen opposite Dean Martin as Matt Helm in The Wrecking Crew. Robbie is wide-eyed and entranced by the image of herself on screen as the audience round about react in good measure. There are also scene-stealing contributions from Al Pacino as a fictional talent agent, Damian Lewis as Steve McQueen and unknown Polish actor Rafal Zawierucha as Roman Polanski.

There is another finely comic scene in which Pitt confronts the kung-fu king Bruce Lee with a physical duel in which the martial arts superstar comes off rather badly.

The ninth film from Tarantino, whose Pulp Fiction scooped the Palme d'Or 25 years ago, features a large ensemble cast and multiple storylines all wrapped up in a retro soundtrack. The pairing of Pitt and DiCaprio works wonders in holding it together.

Tarantino's on good form but there are moments in the middle of the 165-minute marathon where it flags before mustering for its finale. The director has requested that any commentaries avoid spoiling the film for audiences to come, suffice to say that the ending is well worth the wait, and unspools in a way that could not have been predicted.

You cannot help but be ensnared by someone who has such a passion and knowledge of cinema - but perhaps it would have been better if he had not been rushed to finish the film in time for Cannes.

Reviewed on: 21 May 2019
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TV star Rick Dalton and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth make their way around an industry they hardly recognise any more.

Festivals:

Cannes 2019

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