December 2, 2019  (Web Review)

Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

Sony, 162 min., R, DVD: $30.99, Blu-ray/DVD Combo: $38.99, Dec. 10

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

Quentin Tarantino delves into bittersweet revisionist history in this fractured fable that eviscerates the soft, sleazy underbelly of Tinseltown, circa 1969. Formerly a top TV Western star, Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) is watching his once-promising career decline to the point where he’s now guest-starring as the villain who the hero beats up. Dalton’s best friend is his stunt double/driver Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), who—according to rumor—killed his wife and has been blackballed in the industry. Dalton owns a house on Cielo Drive in posh Benedict Canyon, next to director Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) and his pregnant wife Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), while Booth lives with his rottweiler in a beat-up trailer behind the Van Nuys Drive-In. Tarantino deftly recreates the grimy, gritty physicality and culture of old movies, satirically interweaving fictional characters with real ones, like Bruce Lee (Mike Moh), Steve McQueen (Damian Lewis), and hair stylist Jay Sebring (Emile Hirsch). How do Charles Manson and his feral followers fit in? The group originally targeted record producer Terry Melcher (Doris Day’s son), who Manson blamed for his own failure as a singer-songwriter, and Polanski and Tate are renting Terry’s house. Tarantino cleverly twists, turns, and manipulates history, while DiCaprio nails his portrayal of alcoholic, insecure Dalton, and Pitt is charismatic as bronzed, laconic Booth. Kurt Russell narrates this star-studded film that also features Bruce Dern (in a cameo originally intended for the late Burt Reynolds), Al Pacino, Dakota Fanning, and Luke Perry. Recommended. (S. Granger)