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Once Upon a Hollywood


Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Margaret Qualley, Kurt Russell, Al Pacino, Julia Butters, Bruce Dern, Dakota Fanning, Austin Butler, Luke Perry, Damian Lewis, Nicholas Hammond, Timothy Olyphant, Scoot McNairy, Clifton Collins Jr, Lena Dunham, Zoe Bell, Maya Hawke, Rumer Willis, Michael Madsen, James Remar, Mike Moh, Samantha Robinson, Brenda Vaccaro, Clu Gulager

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Tarantino rewrites Hollywood history in this rambling, sprawling epic driven by two charismatic central performances and set in the Tinseltown of 1969, the year of both flower power and the infamous Manson murders.

Twin focal points of the action are Rick Dalton (DiCaprio), a fading star of action movies, now playing heroes and villains in TV westerns, and his stuntman, chauffeur and drinking pal Cliff Booth (Pitt).

The director has fun recreating scenes from Rick's film and, latterly, TV career - DiCaprio is better here than anywhere else, especially sharing scenes on and off camera with talented child actress Butters - before the focus gradually shifts to the Manson commune, first encountered by genuine tough guy Cliff when he gives a hippie girl (Qualley) a lift back there, so he can look up an old friend (Dern, in one of the film's many star cameos, ranging from a few minutes to a few seconds) and ends up beating the daylights out of a Mansonite who has let down a tyre on Rick's car.

Even though the runtime has come down from a three-hour original, there's still plenty of padding and product placement in evidence, as well as lengthy tracking shots of folk walking, driving or riding along. On the other hand, many scenes are carefully composed by Tarantino and his talented cameraman Robert Richardson, and do impress.

At the end of it, the director has a cheeky (and very violent) surprise in store.

Many film posters are seen throughout the movie: you may have fun spotting which ones are real and which the quirky Tarantino has made up, in this homage to an era gone by.

Tarantino's new film is not his best but, apart from the longueurs, it is fun, and DiCaprio, Pitt and Robbie (as real-life movie star Sharon Tate) couldn't be better.

David Quinlan

USA 2019. UK Distributor: Sony (Columbia). Colour (unspecified).
161 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 1, Swearing 3.

Review date: 11 Aug 2019