Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

Release Date: July 26

MPAA: R

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Margot Robbie

Mister Marquee Says: Mmm, that is a tasty burger.

Number: 5/5

Washed up TV western star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) is dealing with a midlife crisis as he tries to find his footing in Hollywood beyond guest star roles as a villain on hit shows. An opportunity to connect with a hot young director comes his way when Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) move in next door. Meanwhile, his best friend and stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) has run-ins with members of the Manson family. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is at once the least and most Tarantino movie of the director’s career. Most of the film is a fairly tame love letter to 1960’s Hollywood. The ending is 100% pure unadulterated Tarantino mayhem.

Hollywood is about the Manson murders, but not really. Sharon Tate lives next door to our main character, and Manson family members keep popping up. We know how this story ends, so Tarantino uses that as an underlying tension throughout. He plays with our knowledge, and subverts expectations. You think you know what’s going to happen next? This is the guy who machine-gunned Hitler in a burning French theater. This is the guy who shot Marvin in the face out of nowhere.

Tarantino’s movies play by Tarantino’s rules, but there’s one thing you can expect – hilarity, and tension. There are some unbelievably tense scenes, and Tarantino’s flare for dialog, while not as over-the-top or memorable as Tarantino’s usual fare, is still very strong. Hollywood is much more restrained than Tarantino’s other films, with his usual action insanity dialed back and confined to a parade of homages to classic Hollywood TV, which is easily the best part of the movie.

DiCaprio and Pitt are fantastic as ever. Leo is particularly impressive as the insecure Rick Dalton, and his scenes filming a new Western pilot are easy highlights.

I feel like I need to see this movie again to get the real point of it all, if there is one beyond entertainment. There’s a layer of meta commentary for sure. Perhaps Tarantino feels a kinship with the fading star Rick Dalton. Tarantino’s love of Westerns is well known, and tinges all of his pictures (especially his two Westerns).

One of the Manson Family members has an epiphany while tripping that the people who make violent movies in Hollywood are responsible for violence in the world, because their generation was raised by TV. Tarantino has frequently been criticized for his violent movies and particularly rails on the notion that art is to blame for influencing violence. He deals with his detractors in the most Tarantino way possible.

Tarantino is one of the directors who is a brand and a genre in and of himself. Fans of his will love this movie. Those who aren’t that into Tarantino will have an easier time in this flick thanks to it’s restraint (though, get ready for lots of unnecessary bare feet). This isn’t my favorite Tarantino, but it’s top five ahead of Inglorious Bastards and The Hateful Eight.

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