Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is Tarantino’s love letter

Once upon a time in Hollywood is the ninth film from Quentin Tarantino and probably his most star-studded to date.

The film focuses on the friendship and fading careers of Leonardo DiCaprio’s leading man Rick Dalton and Brad Pitt’s Cliff Booth – his longtime stunt double and buddy. Set during the late sixties, the film’s backdrop highlights the final moments of Hollywood’s golden age at time of the notorious Manson family.

Both DiCaprio and Pitt’s performances are outstanding and their chemistry is captivating helping to make this film an enjoyable watch.

Fittingly, this has to be Tarantino’s largest and most Hollywood ensemble cast to date with some big names like  Al Pacino, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Margaret Qualley, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, Luke Perry, Kurt Russell, Michael Madsen and Damian Lewis all popping up in supporting roles. As one would expect from Hollywood’s gold class, they all deliver stella performances. However, kiwi stuntwomen Zoë E. Bell is again flexing her acting chops thanks to Tarantino, but her performance as Janet a stunt coordinator is too jarring on screen to match the other heavy hitters.

Another notable performance is the depiction of Bruce lee by Mike Moh. It’s spot on in so many ways but has caused much controversy as he does portray the martial artists legend as  arrogant and egotistical. This has meant some of Lee’s nearest and dearest to comment including Lee’s former training partner who said he would have never shown off on set or acted in the way the movie depicts him. Who would have thought that the biggest controversy coming out of a film featuring the Manson Family murders, would be Bruce Lee?

Tarantino does deal with the Manson Family story respectfully and, of course, doesn’t stick strictly to history – as he has done once before in his revisionist war film Inglourious Basterds. Roman Polanski’s wife Sharon Tate (who was murdered by the Mason Family) is played by Margot Robbie who brings a surprisingly touching portrayal to this innocent up and coming actor.

Overall I found Once Upon a Time in Hollywood to be a mesmerising film thanks to the seamless production design and attention to detail. With sweeping shots of Hollywood in its sixties heyday, I could have watched Pitt’s Cliff Booth drive around downtown Los Angeles all day.  I love the world that Tarantino has created and for most this film will be a delight to watch.

Ironically, this Hollywood film is probably Taratinos must avant-garde and unrestrained to date, with it’s much slower paced and less action incorporated narrative. But don’t worry Tarantino doesn’t let you leave the theatre without a slice of his trademark over the top gory action. The final scenes pay-off is definitely worth waiting for and acts as one of Tarantino’s best dark comedy moments.

Once upon a time in Hollywood is a love letter to the Hollywood of yesteryear, which will thrill cinephiles and Tarantino fans alike. Enjoy Tarantino’s most mature vision in NZ cinemas Now.

Reviewed by Ian Wright.

4 small stars