Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood (2019)

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Margaret Qualley, Al Pacino, Timothy Olyphant, Austin Butler, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

Rating: 1 2 3 4

Blimey, where do I start with this one?

For starters, there seems to be some kind of reviewers' code that says we can't give away the ending. Not that I'm in the habit of spoilering, but the final punchline of this long-winded shaggy dog story is kinda what makes it. Without it, we're left with an overlong, self-indulgent, slightly baggy film with some inspired casting choices (Al Pacino as a larger than life producer, Timothy Olyphant as a wry sharpshooter, Bruce Dern as an aged movie mogul) and some decidedly uninspired ones – whose idea was it to make Damien Lewis play Steve McQueen, one of the few characters that actually has to be labelled on screen so we know who he’s meant to be? And, yes, Zoe Bell is in it again, and yes she's terrible, serving almost as postmodern neon sign screaming 'this is a Quentin Tarantino movie, folks.' As if, with the booming score, period perfect kitsch styling and the endless, clever yet ultimately pointless dialogue, we hadn't already guessed...

Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio in Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon A Time... in Hollywood

Anyway. The year is 1969. Leonardo DiCaprio (on top, scenery-chewing form) plays Rick Dalton, a TV and movie star whose career is starting to run out of steam. His stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt… let's just say he has less to work with), also doubles as his chauffeur, confidante and best friend. There appears to be no-one else in his life. Even Cliff has a dog. 

Next door to Dalton live Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and Roman Polanski.

One day, Cliff picks up a hitchhiker, a precocious teenage girl (Margaret Qualley) who lives out at the now-disused Spahn movie ranch with a bunch of hippies.

Now if you know the story of the notorious Manson family murders, all this will be tolling sinister bells. If not, you'll be left wondering what the hell any of these characters have to do with each other (actually you might wonder that anyway).

Brad Pitt and Margaret Qualley in Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood

And you'd be right, because in the end, Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood is one big ol' cut'n'shut of a movie, the front end a vintage Cadillac, the back a graffitied VW camper van: part in depth character study of a lonely, self-obsessed middle aged man on the verge of alcoholism and depression as his career slides ever downwards, part grisly teenage murder spree. 

A glorious, Technicolor homage to 1960s Tinseltown that often borders on parody, I honestly can't decide whether this movie is utterly brilliant or a big fat, witty, navel-gazing swizz; a beautiful, glittering package that's empty on the inside. A wonderful 'what if' or a joke at the patient viewer’s expense. Kinda like Hollywood itself really. 

Oh, wait, I get it...

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