Saturday, August 17, 2019

Stubs - Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Margaret Qualley, Timothy Olyphant, Austin Butler, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, Al Pacino, Kurt Russell Directed by Quentin Tarantino Screenplay by Quentin Tarantino Produced by David Heyman, Shannon McIntosh, Quentin Tarantino Run Time 161 minutes US/UK Drama, Fantasy

1969 was quite a year from a number of points of view: The Jets defeated the Colts in Superbowl III, Boeing's 747 flew for the first time, The War in Vietnam started to wind down, John and Yoko did their Bed-In for Peace, Man Landed on the Moon, there were the Stonewall riots in New York, The Beatles released Abbey Road and the Manson Family murdered Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Voytek Frykowski, Steven Parent and Abigail Folger, as well as Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. It is the first of these murders which Quentin Tarantino chose as the subject of his 9th feature film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

But in Tarantino fashion, the film doesn't really concentrate too much on Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) or her husband, Roman Polanski (RafaƂ Zawierucha), but rather their fictitious neighbor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Rick is a has-been TV Western actor who is living doing guest shots as the heavy in a series of 1960s TV shows. Cliff, who has his own issues, sticks by his friend and meal ticket, doing odd jobs for him. And while Rick lives on Cielo Drive in the Hollywood Hills, Cliff lives in a trailer behind the Van Nuys Drive-in Theater.

Brad Pitt (Cliff Booth) and Leonardo DiCaprio (Rick Dalton) are the focus of the film.

The film does a very good job of recreating Los Angeles in the late 1960s from the KHJ radio jingles to music on the radio, to the cars, to the fashions, and to the celebrities of the times. Even for someone who didn't live in L.A. at the time, I could see the attention to detail, as well as being jealous of the open roads the freeways were at that time. And let's not forget the smoking, which was still a common thing then. I have never seen so much smoking in a movie made since 1970. There are a few anomalies, like the 747 which didn't take passengers until after this story would have been told, but this a fantasy.

One of the things I was really worried about prior to seeing the film is how the Tate murder would be handled. While I'm not a big Tarantino fan, I had no illusions that he won't go there when the time came. Happily, I can say the film has a very surprising happy ending, which is all I'll say.

A couple of interesting things about my viewing, which was a 4 o'clock show on Friday afternoon at the Sherman Oaks Arclight. The film didn't start on time, which seemed unusual for a chain that seems to delight in being prompt. But there were also no coming attractions, which is the first time I can remember seeing a first-run film that didn't have any. (This may explain why the start was delayed as if giving people time to show up.) And there was a credit in the film for Tim Roth (Cut). Roth does not appear on the screen and I had never seen a credit for a non-appearing actor.

The film takes its sweet time getting to the end of the film. While there are some tense moments, much of the first two and a half hours is sort of a lackadaisical tour of 1969 LA, Hollywood and television production. If you're looking for a nostalgic look back, then this is certainly the film for you.

There are almost too many actors in supporting roles to mention and you may find yourself looking up an entry on IMDb or Wikipedia to see that Dakota Fanning played Squeaky Fromme or Bruce Dern played George Spahn of Spahn Ranch fame. Steve McQueen (Damian Lewis) and Bruce Lee (Mike Moh), as well as Mama Cass (Rachel Redleaf), Connie Stevens (Dreama Walker) and Michelle Phillips (Rebecca Rittenhouse) all make cameos in the film.

Margot Robbie (left) is a good choice to play Sharon Tate (right).

I'm not a big fan of DiCaprio's and frankly found his casting as a Western TV star a little hard to swallow. Brad Pitt, on the other hand, was quite believable as Cliff and proved to be a very formidable person in the film. I will admit to enjoying his work in the film. Margot Robbie's turn as Sharon Tate wasn't bad, but there really wasn't very much for her to work with and her depiction, as stated previously, takes a backseat to Rick's.

If you're looking for an action-packed two and half hour film then you will be sadly mistaken if you go to see this film. The final twenty minutes are very intense but except for one other sequence, not a lot happens. However, if you're feeling nostalgic as the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of all things 1969, then this may be a surprising film to see. Again, the ending is a relief from what I was expecting and that made the film more enjoyable than I feared going in.

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