Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood is an achievement in direction and storytelling that culminates in a satisfying end. Quentin Tarantino's ninth film is a love letter to an era in which he is no stranger. The film highlights the lives of a fading actor, his stuntman, and a true up-and-comer. Providing a sense of intrigue during the long 161-minute runtime, the movie weaves in and out of tense moments and comedic relief. The impressive and sprawling cast never misses a beat, as Tarantino has a knack for balancing his star power to perfection. An absolute treat to watch, Tarantino's latest is only slightly hampered by a few pacing issues and a couple head-scratching moments throughout the story.
Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt man Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) are close colleagues and best friends. As Dalton navigates the final years of his acting career, both men know what is on the horizon. As the city continues to grow, Dalton is forced to take what he is given, relying on pilot season and being featured in secondary roles. He is no longer a star, just a famous name that people remember. As his buddy and personal driver, Booth provides emotional support, all while radiating a mysterious, slightly dark vibe. Living next door to Dalton is the hottest director in town, Roman Polanski and his new wife Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). A budding star full of energy and hope, Tate represents the newfound Hollywood.
The notable cast doesn't stop with the likes of Pitt, DiCaprio and Robbie. Small roles and cameos are sprinkled throughout the film, played by Al Pacino, Bruce Dern and Dakota Fanning among others. Even with all the star power, a young Julia Butters may have stolen the show in a scene with DiCaprio. By cherry picking from his usual cast of characters, along with a few newcomers, Tarantino continues to develop chemistry with his actors, and it absolutely shows on screen.
Tarantino never fails in creating an authentic atmosphere, and Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is no exception. Taking place in 1969, the saga captures the feel and mood at the end of Hollywood's Golden Age. By using clever montages and some quirky storytelling, the film asks more of its audience, as it uncovers more and more about the main characters. Where the narrative falters is in its inconsistent pacing, often leaving gaps that are begging to be filled with more engaged content. There is almost a point where the film seems to be headed towards nothing, by highlighting some long, drawn-out character-building scenes that aren't completely necessary. Still, some of these scenes are beautiful, as Tarantino tells the story with his camera (including some tense moments on Spahn Ranch), but a few feel out of place in an otherwise immersive and encompassing story.
Unlike anything we've ever seen from the esteemed director, Hollywood is a great behind-the-scenes look into the end of an era. The film touches on the pursuit of perfection: how it is never obtainable yet always worth striving for. These are words that seem to drive Tarantino, and it is apparent while watching a film like this. A fun and genuine ride, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is a must-see.