Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is the story of an actor, Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt).
The movie has received a number of awards and rightly so. The most notable being two Academy Awards for Best Production Design (Barbara Ling and Nancy Haigh) and Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Brad Pitt, who wins the first Oscar of his star-studded career) at the ceremony’s 92nd anniversary.
This, the 9th film by legendary director Quentin Tarantino, delivers a classic cinematic experience. Easter eggs and themes from Hollywood during the 50s and 60s envelop the audience within the setting and atmosphere.
This film does not have a normal/linear story arc as it depicts chapters in people’s lives and a major event which ties in all of these characters. Such a style is of course synonymous with Quentin Tarantino and are viewed in films such as his magnum opus, ‘Pulp Fiction’ (1994). The film concludes with an ultra violent Tarantino-esque scene.
Overview – MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD
Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) is a popular actor known for his role as ‘the heavy’ (villain) in the TV series Bounty Law from the late 50s early 60s. His stunt double Cliff Booth is a good friend of his who travels and lives with him. When the show ends Dalton is unemployed and must search for his next role. He hopes it will be a transition from television to film. Dalton then meets a character played by Al Pacino who offers him roles in low quality Italian films but he declines them and resumes his search.
The film picks up in August of 1969 when Dalton finds a minor acting role. He meets with a child actress who he sits and reads with. He is reading a book about a has been cowboy and sees parallels to his own life as an actor thus making him emotional. The girl comforts him and they later act together in a scene.
Meanwhile, Booth, who grew fond of a girl from a group of hitchhiker hippies, picks her up and drops her off at a ranch. Booth states that he used to work at this place during his time on Bounty Law. They arrive at the ranch and Booth asks to meet the owner, George, but the residents are suspicious about his whereabouts. Booth forces himself into the house he is directed to and sees George, who is blind. George reports that he is fine and is not being taken advantage of by the hippies who he houses. Booth is suspicious but satisfied that George is well.
When leaving, Booth returns to his car which has a punctured tyre courtesy of a male hippy. Booth punches him in the face twice as horrified hippies (mainly females) watch on. He orders him to fix the tyre and he does so. Tex, a leader, is called upon. We see him riding on his horse as he arrives to the action but he narrowly misses Booth who leaves.
During the film we see the actions of Sharon Tate, who most notably enters a cinema free of charge due to her starring in the movie she wishes to see. She is perceived as rich and talented but has a certain hippiness to her actions. Nevertheless, she is seen having fun and meeting other famous people alongside her husband Roman Polanski throughout the film. Dalton comments on how he would like to befriend and become popular like them.
Dalton and Booth reunite with Dalton performing in the Italian movies he was offered. He gets married but soon realises that he does not have enough money to keep Booth under his payroll. As a result, he informs Booth and the two embark on an alcoholic escapade to commemorate their working relationship.
Dalton returns home and is making margaritas when he is disturbed by hippies who enter the gates of his home. At this time, Booth leaves, smoking an acid cigarette, just as they pass as he takes his dog on a walk. The hippies appear to be the same as the ones from George’s ranch and are led by Tex. Tex reminds them that they were ordered to kill everyone at Booth’s residence, so they re-enter the property on foot. One member makes an excuse and returns to the car, she escapes. The three remaining are armed, Tex with a gun and the other two with knives.
Booth returns home with his dog high from the cigarette and plays music loudly while preparing dog food. His dog senses the intruders and barks as Booth is notified. The trio enter through different entrances and surround Booth. Booth talks and distracts them. He then orders his dog to attack Tex, stopping him from using the gun, and attacks the armed women.
A violent scene commences. The assailants are brutally attacked with the dog biting Tex’s limbs, body and genitals. Tex is slaughtered and drops his gun. Booth throws a can of dog food at one woman’s face and proceeds with detaining and attacking her until she is badly injured. He then defends Dalton’s wife who is being threatened by the second woman. She targets him with her knife and stabs him in his hip but is soon apprehended. Booth grabs her head and firmly smashes it into walls, ledges and sideboards until she is killed.
The severely injured remaining woman is blinded by her injuries and picks up Tex’s gun, shooting aimlessly. Booth is hit but is alive and safe now that the hippies inside are dead. The gun-wielding, screaming woman breaks the patio doors and enters the garden. Dalton is alerted. Throughout the entire event, Dalton was immersed in music and oblivious to the goings on. The woman crashes into the pool and struggles as Dalton retreats to his shed where he gets hold of his flamethrower – a prop from an episode of Bounty Law that was shown at the beginning of the movie. He torches the woman and enters the property where he finds Booth. The authorities are called and Booth is hospitalised with us left to believe he survives.
The cacophony alerts Dalton’s neighbours, the famous Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate. They invite him in and meet him. The film ends as Dalton befriends them and is believed to have used this as a gateway to Hollywood fame.
This film is a solid 10/10.