Tarantino’s latest film creates a realistic experience, induces nostalgia

Israel Wheatley 

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27 August 2019

5/5 stars 

     Tarantino’s latest film, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” tells the reimagined tales of three Hollywood figures in 1969, recognized often as the end of the Golden Age of Hollywood. The story is inspired by the Manson Family Murders, of which real-life actress Sharon Tate, also a primary character in the film, was a victim. Tarantino uses this series of events as a key point in the film’s run. 

     This eye-opening, darkly humorous and sometimes gruesome story gives us three perspectives of Hollywood in 1969. Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) is the star actor long type casted as the rough cowboy, a role from which Rick realizes he has to break free. His wealth is immense compared to his best buddy and stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), who drives a tiny, run-down convertible and lives in a trailer with his beloved pit bull.  

     Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) is the young, attractive, next-door-neighbor actress who Rick has yet to meet personally, and who is married to one of the kings of cinema himself, Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha), whose close friend is Hollywood hairstylist Jay Sebring (Emile Hirsch), also a victim of the real-life Manson Family Murders. 

     The glue that pulls this strangely-told story together stems straight from the relationships between these characters, whose witty and colorful dialogue keeps the audience entertained even in calmer moments. In fact, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” heavily relies on its dialogue and Tarantino’s masterful imagery to keep the story absolutely magnetic. 

     At first glance, the two-and-a-half-hour runtime seems daunting. But that is to be expected from Tarantino. The plot itself seems dry at first, as the acclaimed director holds back on violence for a surprising portion of the film. For those who go for the violence, no need to worry. Tarantino gives us plenty. 

     Even though the plot itself seems lacking in plot (you might ask yourself, ‘what was that actually about?’), this really is just Tarantino flexing his filmmaker skills to give audiences a taste of his rule-breaking attitude, albeit in a calmer manner. Most of the ‘interesting’ action comes toward the end, and the first two-thirds of the movie seem like irrelevant subplots. ‘Relevant subplots’ would be a better term in this case. 

     Tarantino’s magic camerawork is so realistic that the movie really does feel like something you could live in. The ultimate crescendo is abrupt and intensely exciting, just like in the real world. He wastes no time in developing characters so that we are never left asking ‘who’s who?’ In the end, the slow build-up ties every single element together in a way realized only by Tarantino. 

     A word of advice: while it would for sure be useful to know the history behind the film, that is, the turn of actual events that inspired the film, there is no rush to read into every detail behind the story. Which is exactly what Tarantino seems to tell us with his movie. He boldly decides to warp the true events of the Manson Family Murders into his own Hollywood tale. 

     And, in case this was not clear, beware of violence. Tarantino once again delivers on his expectation to include violence for those moviegoers craving the silver-screen adrenaline rush, not for the faint of heart. 

     A perfect movie to see twice? Absolutely. Watch the movie. Read the history. Re-watch the movie. This film is packed with historical Easter eggs on historical Easter eggs on historical Easter eggs. The best way to enjoy it is to just sit back, relax and expect loads of dialogue and intense gore. 

      If you are not into the movie the first time, read a little more into it. Go back a second time and bask in the masterpiece of meta-cinema that Tarantino presents us.