Anytime Quentin Tarantino (Kill Bill: Vol. 1, Pulp Fiction) makes a film, people sit up and take notice. This is an instance of doubling down in regards to the curiousity factor as the film features mega-stars Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio and the popular Margot Robbie. This is his love letter to Hollywood and the film industry. We all have (or those who have followed his career) recognized that Tarantino is a film geek. He loves movies and knows its history. Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood cements that in a very public way.
The late 60s was acknowledge as the end of the Golden Era of Hollywood. As such, many in the industry were trying to cash in on that. Two of those people were a fading television star, Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant, The Departed), and a stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt – 12 Monkeys, Moneyball). The two have been working a long time in Hollywood, but it becomes more and more apparent that they have not kept up with all the changes in the industry. The two longtime friends navigate this together.
Tarantino has to manage a large ensemble cast here and does so ably. Besides DiCaprio, Pitt and Robbie, you will also see Al Pacino, Emile Hirsch, Timothy Olyphant, Dakota Fanning, Luke Perry, Damian Lewis, Austin Butler, Lena Dunham, Harley Quinn Smith, Clifton Collins Jr., Rumer Willis, Rebecca Gayheart, Kurt Russell, Michael Madsen, Tim Roth, Brenda Vaccaro, and Bruce Dern. Phew! That is a big cast! They play some unknowns as well as some well known and beloved real life actors/actresses/personalities like Bruce Lee, Steve McQueen, Roman Polanski, Mama Cass, Michelle Phillips, Jay Sebring, Sam Wanamaker, and Sharon Tate. Despite the large cast all the parts have been well cast. Plenty of thought has obviously gone into that aspect of the film (like everything else!). Pitt, DiCaprio and Robbie are all great and might earn Oscar noms in the near future.
As is typical with his films, there is plenty going on here. Several stories are happening at the same time. Tarantino always tries to jam as much as he can – storywise and rapid fire dialogue – into his film minutes. Yet, despite all this going on the screenwriter/director is able to be vigilant about all the details. They are all precise. He has managed to capture all the nuances of the era in Los Angeles.
Though there is some of that typical Tarantino feel like things are being shot out of a machine gun with the hectic pace, there is also a laid back feeling to the film. It is his ninth film and probably his most mature body of work as a filmmaker. I will go out on a limb and say that this might his most rewatchable film so far. A little different from what we have come to expect from Tarantino. Less violent and less highwire tension though you will get his usual wit and great music.
No matter what film in his IMDB roster you are talking about, they all display that same love for film. It is the overarching theme of all Tarantino films. The guy is a passionate film fan and that comes through in all of his work.
•Quentin Tarantino’s Love Letter to Hollywood
•For the Love of Film (Film’s Cinematographer).
•Shop Talk – The Cars of 1969
•Restoring Hollywood (Production Design)
•The Fashion of 1969