When and if Quentin Tarantino hangs up his spurs, this 9th film (or 10th depending how you count Kill Bill) from the singular filmmaker may be his greatest outlier. It’s not driven by any particular plot device but rather vividly recreates Los Angeles of 1969 and is perfectly content to just live in its world for two-plus hours before finally arriving at its riveting climax. Once Upon a Time is slowly paced so don’t expect much whiz-bang action apart from extended clips of protagonist Rick Dalton’s once great screen career.
We could talk about all of the superb technical elements: the impeccable recreation of 1960’s L.A., the groovy costumes, or the stunning cinematography — but this movie rests on the shoulders of its two leading men: Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt. DiCaprio gives one of his best performances while Pitt may have never been better than he is here. Pitt often steals the show with his cool-as-a-cucumber stuntman and his scenes are some of the most entertaining. Margot Robbie also makes the most of her role as Sharon Tate and imbues the ill-fated actress with an indelible sense of wonder and awe that is captivating.
With Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Tarantino may have created the most quintessential look at this period and features two of the biggest movie star performances in years. It’s a movie you want to move into and explore again and again, thus demanding repeat viewings. It’s Quentin Tarantino’s best since Inglorious Basterds and one of the year’s top films. Grade: A+