Tarantino's "Hollywood" is a movie only he could make

Tarantino's "Hollywood" is a movie only he could make

Quentin Tarantino is, perhaps, the most influential writer and director his generation. But to the layperson, he may be seen as a clever filmmaker who mostly makes violent movies. So it may come as a surprise that "Once Upon a Time... In Hollywood," long rumored to be Tarantino's movie about the Manson Family murders, is actually his least violent movie yet, and not exactly about the Manson cult. It's more about a particular time and place: Hollywood 1969.

 It's really a "hang-out" movie about making movies. We follow two fictional characters: washed-up cowboy TV star Rick Dalton played by Leonardo DiCaprio and his stuntman Cliff Booth played by Brad Pitt. They are navigating a tough time in Dalton's career because Hollywood is starting to leave guys like them behind. 
 
Dalton happens to live next door to Sharon Tate, played by Margot Robbie, who we know would become one of the Manson Family victims in real life. 
 
For the first two thirds of this movie, we simply watch these characters go about their business for a couple days. It's a chatty movie because it's Tarantino, but DiCaprio and especially Pitt are both fantastic in roles that are compelling and mysterious. And it's fun seeing actors we know like Steve McQueen and Bruce Lee show up. 
 
I wish Robbie had more to do as Sharon Tate. She functions more as a symbol of freedom and purity rather than a real person, but Robbie does have a wonderful scene where she enjoys an audience reacting to her movie.
 
 
In the third act, Tarantino makes some dubious decisions like a narrator that nearly comes out of nowhere, a breakdown in story structure and a surprise that's not at all surprising if you've seen some of his other work.
 
But there's still so much to enjoy about his recreation of this time and place in America. It is captivating, complete with the rebuilding of Hollywood Boulevard and a killer soundtrack. All the signature Tarantino tropes are here - the pop culture references, the film history, the feet - but this is Tarantino at his most relaxed. It's a confident film, not a perfect one, but something it feels only he could make.
 
 
EPPLER'S RATING: * * * 1/2
 

RATING SCALE

* * * * * Incredible - One of the best of the year
* * * * Excellent - Touches greatness with only minor quibbles
* * * Good - Plenty to like, definitely worth seeing
* * Mediocre - You can do better
* Awful - The worst, an insult to movies

 
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