Once Upon a Time In Hollywood is the latest feature by film class favourite Quentin Tarantino. Tackling the epicentre of cinema at the height of the counter culture movement, Tarantino creates a web of interesting characters and captivating sequences to produce another instant classic. With a much more relaxed atmosphere, the film moves along at its own pace, using cutaways and extended dialogue scenes to build towards an inevitably bloody climax. Yet it is the real lack of much actual action that really sets the film apart; allowing the characters to breathe and grow naturally in seeing their day to day life on screen. Much like the title suggests, Once Upon a Time In Hollywood feels more like a small slice of a bigger world; invoking a famous time through the eyes of exaggerated characters who have somehow all found themselves in the same place.
An all star cast is led by Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt as these two very different yet similarly lost men. DiCaprio plays ageing western star Rick Dalton, an actor looking for his place in the rapidly changing Hollywood star system. While DiCaprio is given a lot of the meatier acting scenes and time to really flesh out his character, Pitt manages to completely steal the show with his more subtle role as an effortlessly cool stunt man who seems to have it all despite clearly being a failure in both his profession and his home life. Both are supported by Margot Robbie’s portrayal of actress Sharon Tate, offering a refreshing side plot that is completely detached from the main story yet still creates interesting scenarios for some of Tarantino’s trademark witty dialogue. Though they never meet on screen, all three feel linked as figures drifting through the dazed dreamscape of Hollywood at this strange time. In early production, the shadow of the Manson family hung over the film as its main source of inspiration yet it is much less prevalent than suggested. Instead, Once Upon a Time In Hollywood acts as a pure love letter to cinema and allows Tarantino to indulge his obsession with film genre and film history; apparent from the sheer amount of notable figures he crams in along with the extended sequences of Daltons own features that take up a fair amount of screen time.
Regardless, the film builds to a conclusion we all expect as the looming threat of the Manson family is built up throughout yet the execution is equally shocking and thrilling as a moment of real life horror is broken down into an exaggerated and often humorous catharsis. Much like his depiction of Adolf Hitler in Inglorious Bastards, Tarantino uses the art of film to offer his own form of punishment to some of histories greatest villains. The relatively slow moving plot makes this finale a lesson in delayed gratification and the film definitely doesn’t shy away from the over the top violence expected in a Tarantino picture.
A killer soundtrack and excellent cinematography may help, but it is the ceaseless wit and charm Tarantino brings to his films that makes them incredible. While a little slower and more relaxed than his usual fare, Once Upon a Time In Hollywood is nonetheless a captivating painting of a very important time in culture; using exaggerated characters and scenarios to create a perfect snapshot of both culture and film in the place it calls home.