Being a long-time Tarantino fan I couldn’t wait for the release of his ninth film, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. As expected, the film has all the signature Tarantino elements that make it a must-watch for a fan.
As for the general Indian audience, however, the film might seem hard to follow as many might not be aware of the era and events portrayed in the movie. Nonetheless, if you know your 1960s, this is a film for you. So log in to Wikipedia and get your pop culture references ready as we analyse Quentin Tarantino’s latest venture, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.
The film revolves around a nearly washed-up actor, Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) who realise that Hollywood is coming of age and is moving on without them. In order to stay relevant Dalton, on the advice of an agent, Marvin Schwarz’s (Al Pacino in an extended cameo), starts to play villain opposite up-and-comers in Hollywood. Amidst their professional lives and their ensuing bromance, the duo’s lives intersect with wannabe superstar Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), wife of celebrated filmmaker Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha), who got brutally murdered by the infamous cult leader Charles Manson and his gang.
Like any Tarantino film, much emphasis has been given to character development. Rick Dalton, after Col. Hans Landa from Inglourious Basterds, is by far his best work. A middle-aged actor coming to terms with his declining presence and influence in an industry he watched grow, DiCaprio absolutely nails the already superb character penned by Tarantino. Brad Pitt as Booth shines all through. Cliff is a man of few words. He is ‘more than a brother’ to Rick, ‘but less than a wife,’ the narrator (voiced by Tarantino regular Kurt Russell) informs us. Pitt fits right in Cliff’s shoes and plays the part perfectly.
Robbie, on the other hand, doesn’t have much to do in the film. With the least number of lines, Margot’s Tate has been given significantly less screen time and only appears very briefly until the climax. But being aware of Tarantino’s style, it can be said that this was deliberate as Sharon Tate in the film are less of a person and more of an idea. She signifies the innocence prevalent in Hollywood prior to 1969. With the death of Tate, the industry sheds it’s old skin and enters into a new era where Marlon Brando is more revered than John Wayne (as a child actor discusses method acting with DiCaprio’s Dalton at one point). Random cameos are random but have been placed perfectly. Great nostalgic music and pop culture references have also been added for good measure.
There’s nothing wrong with the film that needs a special mention. The only thing that’s gonna bug some of the Indian audience is the film’s references to the Hollywood of 1969 overall as not even the younger Indian generation would be so much aware of that era. Plus you gotta know your history to enjoy the film. Just like Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained, you gotta be updated on the historical events to grasp the screenplay. The movie is also a victim of some of Tarantino’s annoying excesses, and self-imposed rules. Tarantino has convinced himself that a film’s length is directly proportional to its quality. As anyone who has seen City Lights (a breeze at 87 minutes) and High Noon (even breezier at 85) would tell you, this is simply not true. Once Upon a Time…, like The Hateful Eight, could easily have shaved a few minutes off its 161-minute runtime.
All In All
There has been talk of Once Upon a Time… being re-edited into a four-hour miniseries for Netflix when the time comes for it to be released on home video and streaming. I’d imagine it would make for a more enjoyable experience. As for the film, I’m going with 3.5 out of 5 stars. Go storm the theatres if you’re a Tarantino admirer. For others, at least look up for “Manson murders” before catching the flick. Might be helpful.