Quentin Tarantino is one of the most talented filmmakers of all-time. From directing masterpieces, such as Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, to being the owner of the New Beverly Cinema in L.A., it’s hard not to be impressed by him. He has barely directed a terrible movie. He continues the streak in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, a film unlike anything he has done before. This love letter of Hollywood cinema oozes with style containing a massive cast and film references galore mixing fictional characters with real-life Hollywood stars including Steve McQueen, director Roman Polanski, James Stacey, and Bruce Lee.
Set in Los Angeles in 1969, crime shows and Westerns are the most popular genres on television. Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) is one of TV’s biggest stars. He and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) have been good friends since Dalton’s time on the (fictional) hit Western Bounty Law. However, they are both struggling to keep their careers afloat. One day, Dalton’s agent Martin Schwarzs (Al Pacino) offers him a role in a Spaghetti Western. When the two later find out about the Manson family, things take a turn for the worst.
One of the many reasons why the movie works is the look and feel. Robert Richardson’s superb cinematography gives L.A. a sunny, vintage feel to a much simpler time. Even when Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie, who looks scarily similar to the actual Tate) goes to a matinee showing for one of her movies called The Wrecking Crew, also starring Dean Martin, she finds it enjoyable hearing the audience react to it. As Dalton states, it’s better to own a place in the city rather than rent one because people want to live there as opposed to visiting. It’s almost rare to hear dialogue as sharp as clean razors like what Tarantino brings to the table, even the little things to his direction make the movie shine.
DiCaprio and Pitt deliver some of the best performance of their entire careers. It’s awesome to see DiCaprio back to play someone as natural as Dalton, who is not ashamed of playing the anti-hero in every B-movie or television show he is in and also giving it all. It still surprises me Pitt has yet to receive an Oscar. Almost ten years after working with Tarantino in Inglourious Basterds, he plays another wonderful character in Cliff Booth, a Vietnam War veteran, who will refuse to stand in anybody’s way even during an altercation (without giving anything away, the movie has such a spectacular payoff, and I kid you not, I cheered). They lead a marvelous cast in Robbie, Pacino, Emile Hirsch, Kurt Russell, Bruce Dern, Dakota Fanning, Damian Lewis among others in one of Tarantino’s best.