Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Quentin Tarantino presents a story about 1969 in Los Angeles, California. Honestly going into this movie, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to see it. The advertising campaign left me wondering about the plot of the film. The stars of the movie Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Margot Robbie helped intrigue me. I didn’t know if it would be a movie about over-the-top glamour in Hollywood or a glimpse in their lives as they build up the tragedy of the Manson group, either of which didn’t really interest me. Yet, the movie managed to tell a story about the characters in a way that leads to a compelling climax.

The movie opens with stars, Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) and Cliff Booth (Pitt) giving an interview. We learn that Rick Dalton is a Western movie and TV star and Cliff Booth is his stuntman and general assistant. Dalton takes a meeting with Hollywood agent Marvin Schwarz (Al Pacino) and Schwarz convinces him that his career is declining. This leaves Dalton in an emotional state as he contemplates his career ending, while stuntman Booth drives him home and gives him a bit of a pep talk. Meanwhile, Dalton’s neighbor Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) attends a party where we learn about his wife, actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), and her complicated relationship with her ex-boyfriend Jay Sebring (Emile Hirsch).

As the story progresses, it focuses on stuntman Cliff Booth. We learn about a negative encounter he had with actor and stuntman Bruce Lee (Mike Moh). Booth was believed to be responsible for killing his own wife and acquitted on account of being a war hero. Yet, Hollywood was not thrilled to have him around and many people didn’t want to work with him including a particular director. We learn that Booth lives alone with his dog in a trailer far away from Dalton and glamorous Hollywood.

Throughout the movie we see a group of young women dumpster diving and hitchhiking. Booth notices one of the girls (Margaret Qualley) in particular and strikes up small conversations with her. One day she spots him and asks him to drive her to a compound where a group of free-spirited people are living. Upon arriving Booth thinks that something is off with the people who are staying there. We learn that Booth is not to be fooled.

The movie is 2 hours and 41 minutes, but it feels well-paced. The film covers a relatively short period of time with well-woven story-lines including flashbacks and exposition to enhance character knowledge. Tarantino took stories about lives that I didn’t think would interest me and wove them together with a strong climax. I was really surprised how much I liked this film. It’s certainly worth seeing if the topics of the movie, the actors, or Tarantino’s style appeals to you. Rated R.


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