Hollywood, 1969. Fading television actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) are making a living whilst rising star Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) moves in next door.
The ninth film by Quentin Tarantino blends real life people and events with the fictional. Tate was only 26 years old and 8 and a half months pregnant when she was brutally murdered by members of the Manson Family and the film inexorably builds tension as it leads up to the time of these events.
Dalton and Booth on the other hand are completely fictional and are the real focus of the movie. Because what Tarantino is actually interested in is telling the story of a washed up stunt man who is now the driver for a fading tv star. Booth has accepted his position, whilst Dalton is coming to terms with his. The performances from DiCaprio and Pitt are exceptional and their chemistry is something special. Both are clearly enjoying themselves a lot and it’s fun to watch them go about their day jobs and lives. Both play roles similar to their previous Tarantino outings as well with Pitt assured and deliberate whilst DiCaprio has moments of explosiveness.
Tarantino seems to be having the most fun with the films setting. Taking a leaf out of the Coen Brothers Hail Caesar playbook he uses the Hollywood setting to give himself the opportunity to make his own golden age western as we watch Dalton on set. If you are a fan of Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained you might recognise some of the names mentioned as well. There are moments when you could be forgiven for wondering why we need to see quite so much of the fictional show Dalton is filming but you can’t question the craft on display.
But, for those who may not be sold on Tarantino’s style it may be a struggle. Running at 161 minutes it features all of the self indulgence that Tarantino is known for. Including his very obvious foot fetish, scenes that involve extensive word play and cameos from virtually all of his favourite recurring actors who are credited as “The Gang”. But his popularity as a director is also clearly on show with an array of star cameos, arguably the largest of which is Margot Robbie, who may be third billing but is really just a cameo.
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is a film by a director who is unashamed of his own mannerisms and foibles. It’s filled with knowing nods, a great central relationship and has a jaw dropping ending. It’s a brilliant achievement.
If your bladder can cope there are also a mid and end credits scene to be watched as well.