Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

The latest Quentin Tarantino movie had me eagerly awaiting the opportunity to hear the writer’s amazing dialogue and I wasn’t disappointed. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Rick Dalton, an aging actor best known for his tough western persona, Brad Pitt as Cliff Booth, Rick’s stunt double and personal assistant, and Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate– the young actress murdered by the Manson Family.

Quentin Tarantino is a masterful storyteller and film crafter. I know you’re thinking film crafter? You mean filmmaker, right? No. I mean film crafter. He painstakingly crafts each word, movement, shot, nuance, down to set pieces and costuming—the whole nine yards. It’s another layer deeper than film making.

For me, the film is really about the relationship between Rock and Cliff, how they need each other in order exist in the fantasy of working in Hollywood and staying relevant. Rumors can get you blacklisted or fired and sometimes having the right person vouch for you makes all the difference in the world. These two fellas cannot exist without one another and their bond is greater than… well. Greater than anything. It’s sort of weird to watch when I think back because Cliff is Rick’s support team not just his stunt double. Cliff needs Rick, not just to be a stunt double but to also have a greater purpose. Cliff doesn’t have other work lined up. His day revolves around Rick. These two are so interdependent, it’s almost like a weird nod to Fight Club. -Maybe Cliff is Rick’s alter ego when he has to do stunts—No. He isn’t. But these two are so close, if Tarantino wanted to spin some existential mind freak on you, he probably could’ve. I’ll let you think about that for awhile….

Pitt and DiCaprio (photo: washingtonpost.com)
DiCaprio (photo theatlantic.com)
Pitt (photo geekrant.com)
Pitt and Brandy (photo nytimes.com)

Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt are so subtle in their portayal of Rick and Cliff, it’s almost as if I was actually watching them as themselves. That’s a confusing sentence. I just mean I lost the DiCaprio and Pitt and found myself believing in Rick and Cliff. DiCaprio has some fine moments, sitting with a child actor talking about the meaning of life, later in a scene with her, and moments of doubt and insecurity, so real, I’m sure actors watching this film saw a reflection of their everyday selves. Pitt, on the other hand, is the vehicle which drives the Tarantino fans to the movies. He’s gritty, no excuses, and gets things done while keeping a low profile. Pitt’s Cliff definitely has some anger issues but he’s not going to give people the satisfaction with emotional outburst. Some of Pitt’s best work to date.

Photo: globalnews.ca

I love Bruce Lee and so does Tarantino. I mean, hello, Kill Bill anyone? Has Bruce Lee all over it. I love love love how Tarantino writes a young Bruce Lee into this film and how Cliff “helps” Bruce find his place within it. I’m not spoiling it for you if you haven’t seen this movie. But it was awesome.

I didn’t need Margot Robbie in this movie and felt she was more of a distraction than an asset. I know, she plays Sharon Tate and it brings a fantasy story closer to reality as a “what if” kind of scenario; however, I think Tarantino’s story on it’s own with the Manson references, imagery, and such would have made the same impact. The final scene could still be there, just with a smaller name actress playing Tate since it’s shot from a distance like an afterthought. Robbie’s scenes just weren’t interesting and watching them made me feel like I was stuck watching a commercial when I really wanted to get back to the story I cared about. Not that she wasn’t good. Robbie is good. Just not relevant here.

As for any blood and gore, well, it’s there. But not where you think. And when it happens, it works. And strangely not in a over-dramatic way. Like some bloody scenes from Tarantino’s films are so beautifully choreographed like a dance with the hero left standing at the end, but not here. When you put the pieces together, which Tarantino gives you leading up to this moment, it feels like it could’ve really happened this way.

Once Upon a Time In Hollywood is a love story of sorts. How fragile professional lives can be and how having someone you trust in your life is vital to exist. The landscape is it’s own character and the colorization is on point to help the audience feel submersed in the time frame of the story. An excellent addition to the Tarantino collection and one I could watch over and over.

My mom saw this with me and she loved the film. She loved how Tarantino mixed fantasy with reality. She felt it was a “what if” to the original story of the Manson family murders. She liked how he used elements of history and wove them into a different version. She also remembers that time as a young woman and the lure of the lifestyle lived by the Manson girls portrayed in the film. Not glamorous at all, but gritty, dirty, and one step away from being on the wrong side of things. She felt Tarantino captured this element perfectly. I did, too. See it for yourself.

I saw this movie at the Kuhn Cinema in Lebanon, Oregon. It’s a great small town cinema with about 300 seats which are very comfortable. They seem newer as they were in great shape. I didn’t fidget once the whole time which is weird. Probably the best seat I’ve sat on in a long time. Also, the rows are about 4 feet apart. I literally stretched my legs out straight and didn’t touch the seat in front of me!

Greg and Mom 🙂
That’s a lot of room!

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