If Quentin Tarantino doesn’t come back on his resolution to direct only ten films, Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood is his penultimate movie. Is it too early to be wistful about his active years?
- US, dir: Quentin Tarantino, act: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie
The bravura, cinematographic force, and pure film pleasure that attest to an incredible love of cinema imbue Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood with plenty of material to talk about. The sun-drenched Hollywood of the late, increasingly insane 1960s are conjured on the big screen by a cameraman (Robert Richardson) who deserves to be much more famous. The wealth of details and vintage objects is Big Royale. The soundtrack, featuring The Mamas & The Papas, Paul Revere & The Raiders, Mitch Ryder, and The Detroit Wheels is a feast of songs that you will want to rediscover and that make a major contribution to the film’s atmosphere.
Instead of casting down-and-out actors to play big characters, this time Tarantino asked two of the last great film stars to play down-and-out actors. Leonardo DiCaprio plays an actor who became great in cowboy films and can’t handle the fact that his star has faded. Brad Pitt plays his carefree stand-in/only friend/driver. Pitt wins the acting duel, but DiCaprio deserves credit for the dedication with which he exposes his character. Margot Robbie barely has any lines, but she is brilliant as Sharon Tate, a variation on actress Sharon Tate who was pregnant by director Roman Polanski but was brutally murdered by hippies who were following orders from the satanic sect leader Charles Manson. It is only at the very end that Tarantino focuses, in his infamous frenzied style, on that historical drama that violently awakened America and Hollywood from the high of the 1960s. For most of the film, he sings the praises of the film industry in that period, skilfully alternating between warm-hearted admiration, nostalgia, and mockery, revelling in references and pastiche. He doesn’t deny himself or his audience a single pleasure, and therein lies both the great power and the tiny weakness of his flamboyant fairy tale.