Film review: Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood

Wind down your windows, turn up your radio and take a drive down Hollywood Boulevard. It’s 1969 on a hot August night, where the stars don’t sleep, and strangers meet.

Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film is a love letter to Los Angles at the height of Hippie Hollywood. Featuring a star-studded cast including but not limited to Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Margot Robbie, Al Pacino, Luke Perry, Kurt Russel, Dakota Fanning, Lena Dunham, and Bruce Dern, ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ takes the infamous Manson Family murders and uses them as a backdrop to the main story of a western actor in the twilight of his career and his ageing stuntman-turned-gofer-turned-friend, struggling to let go of the good ol’ days.

DiCaprio as Rick Dalton keeps it fun as a man refusing to put down the pomade and comb while everyone else is letting their hair loose, yet has no trouble showing all his cards when it comes to range. Pitt plays it psychopathically cool as Cliff Booth, driving the violence of the film in the flashy kind of way only a stuntman can. Robbie breathes life into Sharon Tate, portraying her in a light that serves her memory justice while giving her back her agency. The epic supporting cast list give us glimpses of the characters you’d find in Hollywood, each one wilier than the last. Damon Herriman gives a brief yet chilling appearance as Charles Manson, a role he’s nabbed twice in two separate productions. Margaret Qualley shines as hitch hiking hot stuff, “pussycat”. While Fanning and Dunham alongside Austin Butler, serve up performances that showcase the most famous case of the darker side of counter culture, the movie’s shining breakout star is 10 year old Julia Butters in a perfectionist’s turn as beyond-her-years actress (sorry, actor!) who co-stars with Dalton in a western.

Tarantino flaunts it all in this film, with a blaring 60s soundtrack rivalled only by its glitzy sets. Along with (of course) his trademark sharp, lengthy, quick-witted dialogue, a warm colour palette and crisp composition, it’s a masterclass in filmmaking. It’s both a love letter to Hollywood, and a revenge dish served up by Hollywood. You won’t see anything else like it this year.

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