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BRIAN VINER reviews Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in America 

Tate and style… Quentin Tarantino’s 60s flick is an absolute trip: BRIAN VINER reviews Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Once Upon A Time In… Hollywood (18) 

Rating:

Fifty years ago next week, a grotesque series of murders in Los Angeles changed the mood not just of a city, but of an era. Seven people were indiscriminately slaughtered by crazed disciples of the cult leader Charles Manson.

They included actress Sharon Tate, the young, heavily pregnant wife of film director Roman Polanski.

Now, Quentin Tarantino has used that infamous event as the backdrop to his brilliant new film Once Upon A Time In… Hollywood. 

For me, his masterpiece will always be Pulp Fiction (1994), but this black comedy starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt – both on terrific form – isn’t far behind,

Quentin Tarantino uses the grotesque murders of seven people Los Angeles, including actress Sharon Tate, as the backdrop to his brilliant new film Once Upon A Time In... Hollywood (Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate)

Quentin Tarantino uses the grotesque murders of seven people Los Angeles, including actress Sharon Tate, as the backdrop to his brilliant new film Once Upon A Time In… Hollywood (Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate)

DiCaprio plays Rick Dalton, a self-pitying, insecure, TV actor, prone to excessive drinking and worried that his career is on the wane. Pitt is Cliff Booth, Rick’s touchingly loyal friend and stunt double.

The story unfolds episodically, with a series of sometimes extremely funny set-pieces that don’t particularly connect. 

Yet the narrative is driven by one compelling fact – Rick has moved into a house in LA next-door to Polanski and Tate, the latter played very sweetly by Margot Robbie.

The film takes us on a journey towards that terrible night in August 1969, but on the way Tarantino has a hoot depicting Sixties Hollywood such as the party scene at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion, where we find a stoned Steve McQueen (Damian Lewis) admiring the glamorous female guests.

Tarantino recreates the era with copious references to the movies of the time, to TV shows such as Bonanza, as well as to Sixties fashion and music.

Rick himself has been the star of a Bonanza-type series, but a hotshot agent-producer (played with glorious, cigar-chomping swagger by Al Pacino) tells him that his career is going nowhere – that he needs a film role.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Rick Dalton (centre), a self-pitying, insecure, TV actor, prone to excessive drinking. Brad Pitt (left) is Cliff Booth, Rick’s touchingly loyal friend and stunt double (Right: Al Pacino as Marvin Schwarz, Dalton's agent and a Hollywood producer)

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Rick Dalton (centre), a self-pitying, insecure, TV actor, prone to excessive drinking. Brad Pitt (left) is Cliff Booth, Rick’s touchingly loyal friend and stunt double (Right: Al Pacino as Marvin Schwarz, Dalton’s agent and a Hollywood producer)

For me, his masterpiece will always be Pulp Fiction (1994), but this black comedy starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt – both on terrific form – isn’t far behind

For me, his masterpiece will always be Pulp Fiction (1994), but this black comedy starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt – both on terrific form – isn’t far behind 

Rick duly lands one, a Western, with Sam Wanamaker (Nicholas Hammond) directing, enabling Tarantino to indulge himself with a movie-camera version of a hall-of-mirrors – DiCaprio playing a baddie being directed by Wanamaker, being directed by Tarantino.

There are also wonderful turns from stars such as Kurt Russell, Dakota Fanning and Bruce Dern and, this being a Tarantino picture, a full repertoire of tricks – voiceovers, split-screens, quirky captions, slow-mo and flashbacks to add to the fun.

But behind that fun there is genuine tension as the story inexorably moves towards a bloody ending that we all already know – or think we do. 

But rather than dwell on the Tate murders, let’s just say, to use the Sixties vernacular, that Once Upon A Time In…Hollywood is an absolute trip.

Once Upon A Time In… Hollywood goes on general release on August 14. 

Daily Mail UK

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