Once Upon A Time In Hollywood should finally bag Brad Pitt his acting Oscar
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JOE's review of Tarantino's latest epic is here.
Do not take that headline to be a slight against anyone else in the movie.
As per usual, Leonardo DiCaprio is stellar as Rick Dalton, having no problem playing a slightly goofy cowboy actor who is starring down the barrel of the end of his career. Margot Robbie is a beam of pure light and joy as Sharon Tate, representing the optimism of 1960's America. Tarantino himself is firing on all cylinders too, after the overly self-indulgent The Hateful Eight, and delivers a visually beautiful, thematically powerful story of a powerful, brotherly love between two men in the most cynical industry in the world.
But seriously, Brad Pitt is a revelation here.
We've known that he can act, obviously. He has been nominated three times for his performances (Twelve Monkeys, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, Moneyball), and has won an Oscar for his producing work (12 Years A Slave), but there can be a tendency to completely forget that at times, and simply know him as the ex-Mr. Aniston and/or ex-Mr. Jolie.
Here he plays DiCaprio's stunt man/BFF Cliff Booth, and manages to nail the range that is required, going from care-giving big brother, to the toughest man in the room who has no problem in calling out Bruce Lee (Empire's Mike Moh) into having a friendly backstage fight, to wandering into his own horror movie as he finds himself in the depths of the Manson Family's home.
It is the most layered character that Pitt has ever been required to play, and he absolutely nails it, from pinpoint comic timing to the very physical presence needed to play a heavy-with-a-heart-of-gold. Plus he has some genuinely great chemistry with DiCaprio, the duo succeeding in making us believe that they're the kind of friends who are "more than a brother, but not quite a wife".
Tarantino stacks his deck with an impressive and headline-grabbing supporting cast, but realistically there isn't much screen time given to anyone but Pitt, DiCaprio, and Robbie. His vision of late '60s Hollywood is beautifully rendered, when movie-making was next to Godliness, and you couldn't take two steps without tripping over a neon-drenched cinema or packed-out drive-in theatre.
In terms of plot, there isn't really one, and at 165 minutes that could have been (but isn't) a problem, as we mostly just watch these three go about their days leading up to 9 August 1969, the date when Sharon Tate and three others were murdered in their home. In this version of reality, Dalton is Tate's neighbour, and a series of ancillary incidents leads to a finale that... well, if you found Tarantino's fan-fiction killing of Hitler in Inglorious Basterds problematic, this might snap any of your goodwill you've had for him in two.
OR... you'll love it for just how gloriously ballsy it is.
Like all of Tarantino's best work, it will leave you thinking, overflowing with emotional reactions, willing to argue to pros and cons deep into the night, and it is the furthest thing from boring you can imagine.
There are no wrong answers in your reaction, only hugely positive or negative, with no room for anything in between.
Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood arrives in Irish cinemas on Wednesday 14 August.
Clip via Sony Pictures Entertainment
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