WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Quentin Tarantino loves movies, and this is definitely something you want from someone who is actually making movies. Once Upon a Time is a homage to 1969 Hollywood, a fictional film that has historical elements, most predominantly the imagined lives of Sharon Tate and the Manson Family, leading up to a fateful night in August that still has cultural reverberations today.
The long story (it’s two hours and forty minutes) is centered around has-been Western actor/star Rick Dalton (Leonard Di Caprio) who is relegated to guest stars on such shows as Mannix and FBI. A former star of a popular western television series from nearly a decade ago (think Rawhide, The Rifleman) Rick not only struggles with his relevance and fame, but also his acting ability, which he fears is slipping as he continues to play one note villains. His longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) is his best buddy and relegated caretaker, who does everything from chauffeur him, to fixing his TV antenna. Di Caprio once again proves he is an actor that can do just about anything; his washed up, and insecure star has many layers. Pitt’s character is less interesting, and plays his macho man as expected.
The gorgeous, incandescent Margot Robbie plays the iconic Sharon Tate so effortlessly and convincingly, Sharon’s sister reportedly cried while watching the film; remarking that it was like having her sister back. Robbie is indeed stunning and has proven to be a very good actress as well, with an Oscar nomination for I, Tonya, if there was such a thing as the “IT” girl today, she would be it.
The entire cast is fantastic: with Dakota Fanning, Emile Hirsch, Bruce Dern, Timothy Olyphant, the late Luke Perry, Costa Ronin (The Americans), Lena Dunham and even Al Pacino in supporting roles. Tarantino maybe a stylist, but he is also great at casting and working with actors as more and more of his films showcase incredible performances.
Once Upon a Time has many of Tarantino signature elements; over-length, indulgent scenes that seem to go on forever, crazy plot twists, great set pieces, comic book ultra-violence and an inherent love of movies----more than any other film perhaps. And despite his struggles with story arcs and structure, this film’s wildly brazen ending is surprisingly satisfying, when it seems like it shouldn’t work at all. Too often Tarantino’s films felt like they have too many endings, he’s nailed it here.
Inventive, funny, dark, and unpredictable, the pros far outweigh the cons in this very enjoyable and entertaining film.