Once upon a time, I had said that I wasn’t going to any more Tarantino movies. Quentin just likes horrendous violence too much. But a dearth of summer choices had me sitting in my usual theater seat watching Brad Pitt playing a stunt double for Leonardo DiCaprio.
Rick Dalton ( DiCaprio) is a has-been from the 1950’s, an old-Western villain, who understands his coming irrelevancy. Cliff ( Pitt) is Rick’s stuntman. He loves to cock his finger and point an imaginary gun at his friend: “ You are Rick Fucking Dalton, and don’t you forget it.” Nostalgia reigns in his cowboy smile. He bolsters his friend and his meal-ticket’s ego.
The usual booze, cars, and girls come with the “ High Noon” drama, but there are just goofy westerns and no high virtue here. With no core narrative, we get little snippets of shallow characters. There are good overhead camera shots, car revs, and who doesn’t admire Pitt’s sun-glistened six-pack !
Tarantino is good at meshing fast curves and swerves out of baby-blue Karmann Ghias. His set props of Wheaties cereal boxes, Wolf dog food, and Kraft Mac and Cheese are evocative of a time. As are kidney-shaped pools, T.V. Guides, and the Playboy Mansion and Aqua Net hair spray. 1969 tans and all the Robert Goulet in the sound track are seen by me as more “ Making fun of” than homage. But then again,this is how I read Tarantino. Tarantino’s big inside joke is “ It’s the actor’s job to be in pursuit of excellence.”
Poking fun at fame and taking an “easy, breezy, attitude” with historical events and with violence, sets the tone. Our narrator helps tie the fragments of discussions of the actor‘s craft and the actor’s fears with the Charles Manson murders. The cult is here with the drug-addled Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). Sleazy turns into horrific. A timeline is flashed on the screen ingeniously: 11:00 joints & reading, 12:00 dog walk and acid cig. The violence that some came to see in being readied. We are being readied. And viewers are left with the grim, devilish tale of “ Once upon a time in Hollywood…”.