Hollywood, 1969. TV interviewer asks actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), “Exactly what does your stunt double do?” “Actors are required to do a lot of dangerous stuff,” says Rick, “and Cliff, here, helps carry the load.” Turning to stunt man, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), the interviewer says, “Is that how you describe your job?” “Carry his load?” Cliff says. “Yeah, that’s about right.”
Rick and Cliff, central characters in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” (OUATIH) are long-time, close friends. “More than a brother and less than a wife,” says the film’s narrator (uncredited). Want more? See OUATIH, director/writer Tarantino’s love letter to 1960s Hollywood.
Leonardo DiCaprio delivers an award-worthy star turn as TV Western actor, Rick Dalton, whose career is fading. He’s hoping for movie roles, but Hollywood agent, Marvin Schwarzs (Al Pacino) can only offer parts in low-rent spaghetti Westerns. Brad Pitt’s performance is award-worthy, too, if less melodramatic. He’s Cliff Booth, Rick’s stunt double, confidante, driver and BFF. Like Rick, Cliff has alcohol problems and, rumor has it, he drowned his wife. Margot Robbie plays movie actress Sharon Tate who, with husband, director Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha), lives next door to Rick on Cielo Drive.
Others in the large cast include Margaret Qualley, Dakota Fanning and Lena Dunham as hippie members of Charles Manson’s (Damon Herriman) “family” — Pussycat, Squeaky Fromme and Gypsy. Kurt Russell is stunt coordinator Randy. Bruce Dern plays elderly George Spahn. Mike Moh, Damian Lewis and Rachel Redleaf are Bruce Lee, Steve McQueen and Mama Cass. Julia Butters is a hoot, playing 8-year old Trudy, a wannabe Method actress.
“Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” is a movie-lover’s movie or, as critic Brian Tallerico says, “We’re watching a movie not so much about an era but about the movies of that era.” It’s long, episodic and — at least for the first two hours — leisurely, following Rick, Cliff and Sharon on a February weekend in 1969. Among other diversions, Rick attends a party at the Playboy mansion, Cliff makes hot meals at home for his beloved Rottweiler, Brandy, in a run-down trailer next to the Van Nuys drive-in, and Sharon pays 75 cents to go to the movies — a matinee of “The Wrecking Crew,” in which she plays a secondary role. (Tarantino inserts footage from the actual movie.) OUATIH keeps reminding us, with black-and-white, TV ratio inserts and other film-making devices, “You’re watching a movie; isn’t this fun!”
Rated R for pervasive language, graphic violence, drug use, smoking, and sexual references, OUATIH runs 161 minutes. Enjoy.
Tarantino’s “Hollywood” —
Should you see it? Yes, you should.
Stars DiCaprio and Pitt;
It’s a movie-lover’s hit.