Once upon a Time... in Hollywood (2019)

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Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Al Pacino, Kurt Russell, Bruce Dern

Synopsis

1969: a fading TV star is reduced to playing heavies in guest slots on other shows, while his stunt double buddy fixes TV aerials and has a near miss with the Manson family.

The Review

Tarantino's gentlest film (barring the last fifteen minutes) since Jackie Brown is, like all his films, a homage to his favourite shows, records, etc. Setting it in Hollywood adds an extra layer of self-reflexivity, naturally enough. Even though the film's protagonist, Rick Dalton, is a fictional composite, recalling perhaps Clints Walker, Eastwood and a host of others, there are real personages a-plenty depicted here, and the director is more than ready to alter their lifelines, lending a delirious catharsis to the film's climax. The fact that there are still top-drawer actors lining up to appear in Tarantino's movies, and even guest in them, says a lot for the respect in which he is held, and there is no doubt that he has learnt a thing or two about setting up the camera for a cool shot (craning over rooftops), pacing a scene (the one in Spahn's Canyon rivals that in the basement bar in Inglourious Basterds) and writing readable dialogue, even if some of the episodes, like the recreations of those TV westerns and espionage thrillers, go on a bit. There is no doubt that there is a compassionate undertow to this story of a career revived by happenstance: after all, Tinseltown tales so rarely have happy endings. It also showcases one of those immortal screen friendships, like Pike and Dutch in The Wild Bunch.