Once upon a Time in Hollywood
Cast: Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Margot Robbie, Al Pacino.
Direction: Quentin Tarantino
Nostalgia is the core ingredient of Quentin Tarantino's cinema. In his latest, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, what the filmmaker has said will be his penultimate one; it is his love for westerns that resonates most.
It's the summer of 1969. Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a middle-aged, alcoholic actor struggling for relevance and surviving by doing villainous roles after being a dashing cowboy in his days of yore. His man Friday and bff, before best friend forever even emerged, is his stuntman Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Dalton's next door neighbour on Cielo Drive is Polish filmmaker husband Roman Polanski and his teenage actress-wife Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). Charles Manson's hit-and-miss appearance instantly evokes dread as viewers wait for the horror to unfold, the one that shook Hollywood and LA altogether. But you are in Tarantino's world and he is no fan boy of historic credulity of events.
But he certainly likes to bring alive a bygone era with precision. It is evident not just in the costumes and hair-dos, but also in TV and radio commercials, store signage and of course the music as the characters navigate a changing Los Angeles, one with which Dalton is certainly not comfortable with. He loathes the young hippies that hang aimlessly about. For most part, Tarantino is developing these two men, with a wee bit of screen time towards Tate, than the narrative.
The easygoing bonhomie between Pitt and DiCaprio, a pairing which will remind audiences of Samuel L Jackson and John Travolta of Pulp Fiction, is the emotional heartbeat of the film. It's obvious that Tarantino is invested in these two fading men who don't know their place in the world anymore. One wishes for more clarity on Pitt's Cliff Booth instead his toned physique and bravado is played up to overlook his problematic past.
There are also cameos of other '60s stars and plenty of movie-with-in-a-movie moments that will keep the cinephiles sated.
Tarantino's trip down memory lane also comes with cliches and bitterness for a period known for its anti-war rebellion and counterculture.
The women here are all beautiful pretty little things who are annoying, clingy or carefree, and the men are high on machismo and charisma.