Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Quentin Tarantino is here with a new film that is driven by its setting, while the story is probably placed shotgun, without much to do. But he has shorter tales to occupy the rest of the seats in the vehicle, that make it a cheerfully entertaining ride. This is probably the director’s most relaxed film. I’m comparing it to how his films usually make us feel. It is a softer film at heart, in spite of having his typical moments of tension, adrenaline rushes, and aesthetically orchestrated gory violence.

Stuntman Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) and action star Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) are friends of a special kind. In spite of hinging on a service-bound note (Booth is sort of an assistant to Dalton, apart from being his body-double), their friendship sticks because they respect each other for who they are, and not what they do. Their equation is so damn charming. Rick Dalton’s individual arc as a fading actor is a turf tailor-made for DiCaprio to unleash his eccentrics. Cliff Booth is a delight too, though stuff like the Bruce Lee sequence makes you wonder if it is serving any purpose to the plot – but what if there isn’t really a plot to serve to? Tarantino’s aesthetic is unapologetically fun, and that’s why I stopped complaining.

I initially believed Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie, who is casually amazing) to be the core of the film, but Tarantino has far more exciting ideas up his sleeve. This is sort of an alternate version to the Charles Manson story, as he has woven in his own characters into it. I was expecting a biopic, but what we’ve gotten is even more exciting, because you can’t tell which direction this is heading towards. The stretch at the Spahn ranch is a great example of how to build tension. Visually, it may look like a nod to westerns, but it actually is Tarantino being himself. This signature craft returns for the climax, and boy how much fun is that! I may not even place this among his top five, but it sure does engagingly pay respects to a “has-been” time which was probably, going by its title, the objective of the film.


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