The early nineties introduced audiences to three of the most influential directors in Hollywood; Kevin Smith, Robert Rodriguez, and Quentin Tarantino. Of the novel visionaries, none of them have been more influential than Tarantino. With a filmography consisting of “Pulp Fiction”, “Kill Bill”, and “Django Unchained”, Tarantino shows homage to old films that shape his canvas. This is especially the case in his latest film, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”.
Leonardo DiCaprio play Rick Dalton, an actor whose claim to fame comes from the popular Western show “Bounty Law”. After talking to his agent (Al Pacino), Dalton worries about his career coming to an end. With the help of his stunt double and best friend, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), he persists in keeping his star bright in Hollywood. By the end of the first act, the plot breaks into three storylines. Rick’s follows him working on a Western series that casts him as the villain. Simultaneously, Cliff takes a hitchhiker to Spahn Movie Ranch where he inadvertently meets the Manson Family. Interluded is a subplot that follows Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) as she takes one of the Manson girls to pick up Tex Watson (Austin Butler), before leaving and watching a viewing of her film “The Wrecking Crew”.
The cast blends in nearly flawlessly within the 1969 background. DiCaprio and Pitt have a strong chemistry that plays off each other naturally. A supporting cast with the likes of Pacino, Damian Lewis, and others add to the Hollywood setting. Young actress Julia Butters shines as a young method actor that DiCaprio can play off with. However, there are two performances that feel out of place; Robbie as Tate and Michael Moh as Bruce Lee. Despite often shining in her role, Robbie didn’t seem to match with the role she was given. The same goes for Moh as Lee. Watching the scene where Booth fights Lee, it was hard to tell if Tarantino was trying to emulate Lee or mock the celebrated action star.
There are two signature elements that make Tarantino’s movies stand out: clever dialogue and stylized violence. The dialogue in this movie, like many others, is sharp and poignant. It works like a Swiss army knife for each scene, whether it’s used as a racket in a verbal game of tennis or a hammer to show aggression in the scenes. However, the violence seemed to have more style and less substance. In previous films, the violence has a charm to it that makes it enjoyable, like the shootout at Candyland plantation in “Django Unchained” or the violence in “Inglorious Basterds”. But the violence in this movie doesn’t hold up. It’s simple and feels a little more gratuitous than previous films.
Audiences can know what to expect from this movie what comes from any other Quentin Tarantino movie. The cast and dialogue mold well with the two leads make the movie. And while some of the performances and violence fall short from previous works, the film is a solid love letter to 1960’s Hollywood, as well as a solid entry in the Tarantino filmography.