Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood” fulfills the promise of its title as a throwback fairy tale with two fictional showbiz buddies that just so happens to coincide with one of the most infamous killing spreesof the 20th century.
The iconoclastic writer/director’s stamp is all over his ninth film (★★★ out of four; rated R; in theaters nationwide Friday), Tarantino’s signature style and humor melding with violence, a little melancholy and thought-provoking character drama. His vision of 1969 Hollywood feels authentic and alive, with a lot of that electricity running through leads Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, plus an inspired, understated performance by Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate.
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Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) is a cool customer in Quentin Tarantino's "Once Upon A Time in Hollywood." (Photo: ANDREW COOPER)
Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) is a famous 1950s TV cowboy and fleeting movie star whose career, by the time “Hollywood” takes place, consists mainly of guest appearances as the bad guy on any show that’ll take him. An insecure mess, Rick has a saving grace – in more ways than one – in stunt double/confidante/driver/handyman Cliff Booth (Pitt).
Cliff is a weathered, carefree dude who lives on the outskirts of town with his pit bull Brandy, though he spends a lot of time at his best pal’s snazzy Hollywood Hills estate. Rick’s next-door neighbor is Sharon, whose celebrity is rising as his is teetering downward, and she races in sports cars with her director husband Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) and parties with the Mamas and the Papas, flitting through the good life.
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