Once Upon A Time…in Hollywood
159 minutes | Rated R
Quentin Tarantino’s ninth movie (by his count) stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton a past his prime TV and movie actor slowly coming to grips with the fact that he is approaching the end of his career. Brad Pitt plays his best friend, stunt double, and driver Cliff Booth. Dalton’s hit TV show a western called “Bounty Law” has been canceled and Rick finds himself playing bit parts and guest roles as bad guys on various TV shows. His agent, Marvin Schwarz, played by Al Pacino suggests that he should go to Italy and make a few westerns to hopefully give his career a boost. Dalton scoffs at the idea, but Cliff thinks that it doesn’t sound like a bad idea. Cliff drives Rick home. We learn that Rick lost his driver’s license due to drinking and driving so Cliff is now his driver. We also learn that the hot new film director Roman Polanski, his wife, actress Sharon Tate, played by Margot Robbie, and hairdresser Jay Sebring, played by Emile Hirsch have moved into the house next door to Rick. A young man named Charlie knocks on their door looking for the home’s former owner Terry and is told that Terry doesn’t live there anymore.
Rick has gotten a job playing the bad guy in the new show “Lancer.” He asks the producer to hire Cliff as his stunt double. We learn that they are using the same stunt crew as “The Green Hornet” and Rick would need to clear it with the stunt coordinator, Randy, played by Kurt Russell. Randy is reluctant to hire Cliff because of rumors that Cliff killed his wife with a spear-gun while boating. He allows Cliff on set. Cliff gets into an altercation with a cocky Bruce Lee, played by Mike Moh. During the confrontation, Lee is thrown into the side of a car leaving a large dent. We learn that the car belongs to Randy’s wife and Cliff is thrown off of the production. While driving to Rick’s to fix his TV antenna, Cliff decides to stop for an attractive young hippie girl that he has noticed a few times while driving Rick around. The hippie goes by the name of Pussycat and wants a ride out to the old Spahn Ranch. Cliff knows the place because he and Rick made several westerns there. It seems that Pussycat and her friends have taken over the place and are giving trail rides to tourists. He is told that their leader Charlie is not there but that Charlie would love him. Cliff senses that something is amiss and asks to see his old friend George who owns the ranch. He is told, by a red head named Squeaky, played by an unrecognizable Dakota Fanning, that George is napping and cannot be disturbed. He insists on checking on his old friend. Satisfied that his friend is alright, Cliff finds that one of the hippies has stuck a knife into the tire of Rick’s car. He beats up the hippie responsible and forces him to change the tire before leaving the ranch. A few nights later, four of the hippies show up in a car in front of Rick’s house.
Tarantino offers up an appealing mix of fact and fiction transporting us back to the summer of 1969 in Hollywood. Those who are familiar with the actual people and events the movie depicts may be surprised by the ending. As the lady seated next to me said “that’s much better than what really happened.” There are a number of well-known people who appear in the film as well as numerous humorous moments. While not Tarantino’s best work, it is far from his worst.
Once Upon A Time … in Hollywood is rated R for violence, language, substance use, and some sexual content. It is suitable for older teens and adults. If you have enjoyed Tarantino’s other films you should also enjoy this one. I rate it three-and-a-half cans of dog food out of five.