Rick Dalton contemplating his own declining star, with his stuntman double/handyman/driver, Cliff Booth

If you’re a Tarantino fan anyway, you will lap up his genius on display in ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD. If you’re not, you probably will be after you’ve watched this film. What’s not to like about Brad Pitt and Leonardo di Caprio as a buddy pairing? Each with their own storyline, and each with a number of priceless, memory-searing scenes (‘Bruce Lee’ and Brad Pitt’s stuntman, Cliff Booth is one of many), and a beautifully constructed story built loosely around Sharon Tate and the Manson murderers.

Di Caprio’s fading star as Rick Dalton is beautifully observed, both hilarious and incredibly moving.  And the production design is glorious. Tarantino told us that they had shut down Hollywood Boulevard for quite a while, but that it had become a tourist attraction – a return to the classic neon signs of the 60s.  If they could have left it all there, it sounds like there would have been few complaints from the stores! 

What is great about #onceuponatimeinhollywood  is that what you think you know, isn’t quite what you see, but the build up of tension over the 161 minutes coupled with the classic Tarantino stylisation, is simply perfect.  For viewers d’un certain age, there are so many touch points to 60’s TV shows and stars, brands and advertising, you can wallow in a lot of nostalgia, but it’s all there to further the story.  This tale touches on the two men crossing paths with the Manson clan, and though it still fails to really illuminate their motivation (not that that was ever clear in the first place), that doesn’t really matter, as you still feel the impending menace, albeit through alternative eyes. Alternate realities abound in the story, but they all serve to enhance the emotion.

Having left the cinema, and after having listened to Tarantino talk about his vision and motivation for the film, and also having reminisced about Alias Smith and Jones, where the sad life of Pete Dual, one of its stars, took his own life, and became the loose inspiration for Leo’s character of Rick Dalton,  I already want to go back and watch it again.  To marvel at the detail, the performances, to look for more clues in the story, to revel in the cinematic glory of a film shot on 35mm film.  When a film of nearly 3 hours long, mature, restrained, characterful and delivering the classic Tarantino twisted stories and tropes can do that, you know you’re onto a winner.  With every film he’s made, Tarantino’s film-making  has evolved, but his power for story-telling has certainly not diminished one jot.  

This is number 9.  Bring on film number 10.
Sheer brilliance. 💜💜💜💜💜