ONCE UPON A TIME...IN HOLLYWOOD

Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood movie poster
Fading star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his longtime stunt double/friend Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) struggle to make their way in 1969 Hollywood. Having starred in the popular television western series "Bounty Law", Rick is now relegated to bad guy roles in episodic TV shows and pilots. Meanwhile, Cliff spends his time as Dalton's chauffeur/handyman and trying to hook up with Pussycat (Margaret Qualley), who is a member of the infamous Manson Family. Rick's next door neighbors are Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) and his wife Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). Lives are about to change.

Director/writer Quentin Tarantino's love of film, especially westerns, shines from
the first frame through the last in this cinematic treasure. Epic in both scope and length (slightly over 160 minutes), this marvelous character study is defined by humor, crisp dialogue and a fascinating story. Tarantino has brilliantly captured the look and feel of Hollywood in 1969. The cars, movie posters, theater marquees, fashions and music fully immerse the audience in this era. From Paul Revere & the Raiders to the Rolling Stones, the soundtrack sizzles throughout. There are so many movie and television references, some obscure, that one screening isn't enough to catch them all and no spoilers will be revealed here. Like the director, I'm into celluloid cowboys and was highly impressed. The title alone is an homage to Sergio Leone ("Once Upon a Time in the West" and "Once Upon a Time in America"). One authentic television series, "Lancer", gets a lengthy segment. Dalton starts to unravel as he portrays the villain in the pilot episode. In makeup, Leonardo looks a lot like the actor who actually played the baddie. I won't reveal his name, but Leo is walking tall in the role. The late Luke Perry is Wayne Maunder and Timothy Olyphant is James Stacy, the actors who portrayed the Lancer brothers. Nicholas Hammond plays Sam Wanamaker, the pilot's actual director. The timeline is a bit off - "Lancer" premiered in 1968 and this film takes place in 1969. But fiction mixes with fact in this fable, so it doesn't matter. The star-studded ensemble cast is too large to list. DiCaprio and Pitt dominate the award-worthy performances. Margot Robbie makes a lasting impression as Sharon Tate (the real Tate is present in scenes from the Matt Helm adventure "The Wrecking Crew"). Among the actors in supporting roles are Kurt Russell as a stunt coordinator and the film's narrator, Al Pacino as a producer/agent and Bruce Dern as George Spahn - the owner of the movie ranch where the Manson Family lived. Damon Herriman briefly portrays Charles Manson and Dakota Fanning plays his follower Squeaky Fromme. Look quick for faces from the past such as Clu Gulager, Martin Kove and many more. The pace is steady while building tension and memorable moments are plentiful - including a fight between Cliff and Bruce Lee (Mike Moh). Being a Tarantino production, there is some outrageous graphic violence. But it's kept to a minimum and may well make this his most accessible film yet. Don't leave when the credits roll - there's an added treat you can't miss. "Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood" is a tale well told. (4.5/5 CAMS)

Rated R (for language throughout, some strong graphic violence, drug use, and sexual references)
Running Time: 161 minutes

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