Main cast: Leonardo DiCaprio (Rick Dalton), Brad Pitt (Cliff Booth), Margot Robbie (Sharon Tate), Emile Hirsch (Jay Sebring), Margaret Qualley (Pussycat), Timothy Olyphant (James Stacy), Julia Butters (Trudi Fraser), Austin Butler (Charles “Tex” Watson), Dakota Fanning (Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme), Bruce Dern (George Spahn), Mike Moh (Bruce Lee), Luke Perry (Wayne Maunder), Damian Lewis (Steve McQueen), Al Pacino (Marvin Schwarz)
Director: Quentin Tarantino
While trying to stay awake throughout Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, I can only wonder when he’d mutated into Woody Allen. Just like a typical penis-pulling flick by Mr Allen, this one is padded with who’s who in Hollywood all scrambling to play even the second bartender in that corner, not because this movie is particularly brilliant or anything. Rather, it’s because with the director and writer of the correct pedigree and network at the helm, the movie is sure to be automatically lauded with lavish critical acclaim and a bunch of awards by the following year.
This one has zero story, just the meandering adventures of Rick Dalton and his stunt double-cum-driver-cum-BFF Cliff Booth as Rick attempts to resurrect a career after a downward spiral that started with him arrogantly quitting a TV leading role that made him famous for a movie career that didn’t go too far. Throughout it all, these two will go from one scene to another, culminating in Rick being inserted into the dramatic battle between Sharon Tate and friends with the Manson crew, which is a good thing for Sharon and her buddies because these two men are self inserts with awesome plot armors and, in the case of Cliff, a convenient background of being the best action hero sidekick ever that can do anything and everything.
The guns and violence parts are packed mostly at the tail end of the movie, though. For the most part, the film is a dragging, slow, meandering bore. Here’s ten minutes of Brad Pitt driving on the road and making his pit bull terrier dinner… below the whole thing dissolving into Margot Robbie and Emile Hirsch driving on the road before walking into and dancing around the Playboy Mansion. Here’s a long scene of Leonardo DiCaprio practicing his lines while wandering around his mansion. I use the actors’ real names here because this isn’t a movie; it’s a long action reel of these actors showing off how many accents they have and how much they can do “character acting” while posing around artfully in a scene. So much of this movie is singularly focused on showcasing the actors billowing and posturing in a meaningless neon-colored pit of vapid fluff.
Of course, the production values are top notch. It’s Quentin Tarantino we are talking about here, after all. The lighting is good, the cinematography is excellent, the make-up is solid – everything looks gorgeous, like those luxury watch or perfume commercials they play in the big screen before this film begins. Unfortunately, to really appreciate this movie, folks who are not high brow movie critics (or fancy themselves such) will have to be really into the technical aspects of this movie or are so into the whole 1960s Hollywood glamor in order to stay awake throughout this overlong, self-indulgent twaddle.
It’s not even an authentic recreation of that era anyway – there is not enough armpit and body hair on these people.