May 21, 2019
With Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt playing a TV actor and stuntman who cross paths with the Manson cult, Tarantino has created outrageous, disorienting entertainment
Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood review - Tarantinos dazzling LA redemption song
Quentin Tarantino’s exploitation black-comedy thriller Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood finds a pulp-fictionally redemptive take on the Manson nightmare in late-60s California: a B-movie loser’s state of grace.It’s shocking, gripping, dazzlingly shot in the celluloid-primary colours of sky blue and sunset gold: colours with the warmth that Mama Cass sang about. The Los Angeles of 1969 is recovered with all Tarantino’s habitual intensity and delirious, hysterical connoisseurship of pop culture detail. But there’s something new here: not just erotic cinephilia, but TV-philia, an intense awareness of the small screen background to everyone’s lives. Opinions are going to divide about this film’s startling and spectacularly provocative ending, which Tarantino is concerned to keep secret and which I have no intention of revealing here. But certainly any ostensible error of taste is nothing like, say, those in the much admired Inglourious Basterds. And maybe worrying about taste is to miss the point of this bizarre Jacobean horror fantasy.Quite simply, I just defy anyone with red blood in their veins not to respond to the crazy bravura of Tarantino’s film-making, not to be bounced around the auditorium at the moment-by-moment enjoyment that this movie delivers – and conversely, of course, to shudder at the horror and cruelty and its hallucinatory aftermath.Our first non-hero is Rick Dalton, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, a failing cowboy actor and alcoholic going to seed in the autumn of his career and in moments of bad temper beginning to resemble Jack Black. His best friend – pathetically, his only friend – is Cliff Booth, played by Brad Pitt in his Ocean’s-Eleven mode of easygoing competence and imperturbability. Cliff is Rick’s stunt double and has an awful secret in his life: a grisly event for which he may or may not be guilty. Cliff has to drive Rick everywhere because he has lost his licence, and he is Rick’s best pal, assistant, factotum, and the person who has to straighten Rick when he bursts into boozy tears of self-pity.
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