Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film, Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, is a passionate love letter to Hollywood’s golden age.
Set in 1969, it follows Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), a fading actor whose career has stalled since the cancellation of his show Bounty Law. With his career fading and his days as a leading man seemingly behind him, he spends his days taking thankless villain roles, drinking and hanging out with Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), his long-time stunt double and best friend (who may or may not have killed his wife).
But as Rick’s star fades, others are on the rise, including actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and her husband Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha), who have recently moved in next door to Rick.
The plot is virtually nonexistent with majority of the film depicting a day in the life of these characters, aimlessly going from one unrelated set piece after the next with very little at stake. Even the looming threat of Charles Manson (Damon Herriman) doesn’t factor into the film as heavily as you would expect. Cliff has a brief encounter with Manson’s crazed cultists early on in the film, only for them to disappear until the climax. But what keeps the film engaging are the characters. Both Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt are endlessly watchable and their heartfelt bromance becomes the heart of the film. And Margot Robbie’s portrayal of Sharon Tate is magnetic.
The production design and costumes are wonderful, the song choices are inspired, the dialogue is predictably witty and the jokes are hysterical.
And whilst it is almost violence-free for most of its run-time, the wild third act delivers the violence Tarantino fans crave as it descends into a cartoonishly violent bloodbath which had the audience howling with sadistic glee.
Once Upon a Time In Hollywood is an endlessly entertaining delight that sees Tarantino celebrating everything grand and glorious about an era which is clearly close to his heart with an endearing bromance at its centre.
Reviewed by Jordan Ellis.