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‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ director’s love letter
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood still

Quentin Tarantino’s 9th film is truly yet another love letter to his passion for film as well as the Hollywood of 1969. This has a lot of his typical trappings, but I wouldn’t quite put it in the top tier of his best films.

Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Rick Dalton, a Western TV actor whose career is in a downward spiral and Brad Pitt is Cliff Booth, his best friend/stunt double. Together the two of them have higher ambitions by wanting to break into the world of film.

They get an opportunity when Al Pacino as an agent lands DiCaprio in a series of Spaghetti Westerns abroad in Italy. DiCaprio in particular has some sparring dialogue exchanges with his precocious eight-year-old costar about method acting.

Between DiCaprio trying to make it as an actor and Pitt engaging in friendly contests with Bruce Lee (Mike Moh), there’s another subplot involving Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and her marriage with Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha).

Pitt’s character at one point gives a ride to a young woman who just so happens to reside at the commune of Charles Manson (Damon Herriman).

DiCaprio and Pitt are a dynamic duo and their chemistry is terrific where they spout out Tarantino’s dialogue with the suave ease it deserves. They’re no doubt the best buddy duo on screen this year.

As I said before, Tarantino pays tremendous homage to Hollywood of the ‘60s and every inch of this film is just oozing with some of his favorites both in terms of film as well as the music. The fashions, the design, and the trends are all on display in such a way that we’re immersed in 1969.

The movie’s only weakness is that unlike a lot of his films, Tarantino has crafted a story that doesn’t quite involve us at the level of his others: We see and witness what the characters are doing, but that level of involvement falls surprisingly short.

It has some sensational moments during its first and third act, but the middle section seems somewhat problematic.

If you can look beyond some narrative stumbles and just accept it as a love letter to 1960s Hollywood, it’s quite entertaining for 2 hours and 40 minutes.

Let’s hope his 10th and final film will give us something as magnetic as when he started 27 years ago.

Grade: A-

(Rated R for language throughout, some strong graphic violence, drug use, and sexual references.)

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