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A Tarantino tour de force: Rashid Irani reviews Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood


Direction: Quentin Tarantino

Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Al Pacino

Rating: 5 / 5

Since his trailblazing debut, Reservoir Dogs (1992), every film by Quentin Tarantino has been cause for celebration. For his ninth feature, the movie-mad maverick offers a revisionist, what-if-it-were-so take on a Hollywood on the cusp of change, circa 1969. The outcome is as affecting as it is entertaining.

Real-life personalities commingle with fictional characters in a mosaic narrative studded with the director’s trademark traits — a blistering pace, snappy dialogue and gruesome violence.

In their first on-screen pairing, matinee idols Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt play a has-been TV actor and his temperamental stunt double, respectively.

The booze-sodden former star, hoping to revive his fading career on the big screen, accepts an offer from a talent agent (the ever-mercurial Al Pacino) to appear in spaghetti Westerns in villainous roles. Meanwhile, when he’s not driving around Tinseltown, the stuntman spends his time teaching his dog, Brandy, new tricks. 

The plot’s crucial third strand introduces us to the acclaimed Polish filmmaker Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) and his ill-fated wife, the actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). The high-profile couple takes up residence next door to the two middle-aged protagonists.

In the blood-splattered climax, Tarantino provides a commendably idealistic twist to the killing spree by the infamous Charles Manson counter-culture cult.

Tarantino painstakingly recreates the late-’60s Hollywood of rundown studio back lots and semi-sleazy cinema halls, and factors in vignettes featuring celebrities such as Bruce Lee (Mike Moh) and Steve McQueen (Damian Lewis).

Among several standout sequences count the poignant on-set interlude between DiCaprio and a child co-star (Julia Butters) who’s inspired by the method school of acting.

The eclectic soundtrack of era-specific pop tunes and the luminous cinematography by Robert Richardson also contribute to the potency of yet another Tarantino tour de force. Don’t miss it.


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