(US/UK/China - 2019)
Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Al Pacino, Emile Hirsch, Margaret Qualley, Timothy Olyphant, Austin Butler, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, Kurt Russell, Luke Perry, Julia Butters, Damian Lewis, Mike Moh, Lorenza Izzo, Damon Herriman, Zoe Bell, Lena Dunham, Rumer Willis, Samantha Robinson, Costa Ronin, Rafel Zawierucha, Nicholas Hammond, Mikey Madison, Madisen Beaty, Maya Hawke, Michael Madsen, Clifton Collins Jr, Scoot McNairy, Rebecca Gayheart, Marco Rodriguez, Clu Gulager, James Remar, Martin Kove, Brenda Vaccaro, Daniella Pick, Harley Quinn Smith, Omar Doom, James Landry Hebert, Lew Temple. (R, 161 mins)
An epic, freewheeling, kaleidoscopic wet dream for hardcore movie nerds, ONCE UPON A TIME...IN HOLLYWOOD allows Quentin Tarantino to fly his geek flag like never before. What other director could get away with stopping a big-budget, wide-release summer movie cold for an impromptu lesson on the making of 1960s Italian spaghetti westerns and the Americanized pseudonyms that were often employed by their directors? A love letter to the Hollywood 50 years ago on the cusp of tumult and tragedy, HOLLYWOOD takes place in February and August of 1969 and centers on Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), an actor desperately clinging to the fading fame brought by his starring turn a decade earlier on a TV western called BOUNTY LAW. The show was cancelled when he quit to do a pair of movies that ended up bombing (and he lost out to Steve McQueen for the lead in THE GREAT ESCAPE, a role he was up for along with "the Three Georges--Peppard, Maharis, and Chakiris") and has spent the latter half of the '60s doing failed pilots and bad guy guest spots on nearly every network TV show. He's desperate enough that he's seriously considering an offer by his new agent Marvin Schwarzs (Al Pacino) to head to Rome to make easy money doing spaghetti westerns and 007 knockoffs. He's also gotten a bad rep around town for his drinking, and multiple drunk driving accidents have caused him to lose his license, forcing him to be driven everywhere by his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), who's also his errand boy, confidante, drinking buddy, and seemingly his only friend. When he isn't driving Rick around, house-sitting for him, or being a handyman around his house, Cliff lives in a broken down trailer behind the Van Nuys Drive-In with his loyal pit bull Brandy. Cliff's fortunes mirror those of Rick's: where Rick can only land quick-paycheck guest spots because of two costly big-screen flops and a troubled personal life, Cliff has become persona non grata among the Hollywood stuntman community after the mysterious death of his wife Billie (Rebecca Gayheart). It was ruled an accident but rumors still persist that he killed her and got away with it.
THE WRECKING CREW ("I'm in the movie!" she cheerfully tells the girl at the ticket booth) and gets quietly overcome with joy at the audience laughing at her comedic performance and cheering her kung-fu ass-kicking of co-star Nancy Kwan is truly touching.
OPERAZIONE DYN-O-MITE!). As has been the case with latter-day Tarantino (never more than in the bloated THE HATEFUL EIGHT, a story that didn't need to take 168 minutes to be told), his tendency to meander does rear its head every now and again. While it's important to the story in terms of Rick's bottoming out and eventual path to redemption, the painstakingly laborious recreation of long takes and sequences from LANCER, where Rick has a guest spot as a bad guy, is the filmmaker at his most self-indulgent. At the same time, Rick's interaction on the set of LANCER with a committed, eight-year-old method actress (Julia Butters) provides HOLLYWOOD with one of its most genuinely moving moments, along with the final scene, which actually had people in the audience applauding. As good as DiCaprio and Robbie are, the secret weapon here is Pitt, who delivers a possible career-best performance. He's at the center of one of the film's strongest sequences--a visit to the Spahn Ranch that's every bit as intense and stomach-knotting as Jake Gyllenhaal's journey into the film programmer's basement in ZODIAC--and he's the key element of a shocking climactic showdown for the ages in a startling bit of revisionist history that makes this a great companion piece to Tarantino's INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS.
|Luke Perry (1966-2019)