Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, together for the first time on the big screen. Margot Robbie as the doomed starlet Sharon Tate. And Neil Diamond, Vanilla Fudge and Paul Revere and the Raiders play on the soundtrack. “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” is Quentin Tarantino‘s version of 1969 in hippie-dippy Tinseltown when cult leader Charles Manson (James Marsden) was part of the shifting landscape and it freaked out the Cannes crowd in a good way as it currently boasts a 93% ranking on Rotten Tomatoes.
The main draw for most when the film opens nationwide on July 26 will likely be its two male leads, with DiCaprio playing a successful TV action star Rick Dalton who no longer quite fits into groove of the growing counter-culture and Pitt as his loyal sidekick and stunt double Cliff Booth. At two hours and 40 minutes, the now-56-year-old former wunderkind director does a lot of reflecting on the state of the changing entertainment industry in his ninth feature, but injects his usual humorous twists on nostalgia.
The cast is packed with cameos from Dakota Fanning as Squeaky Fromme to Damian Lewis as Steve McQueen. But critics seem to most appreciate Tarantino once again flexing his usual bravura showmanship, considering it is the 25th anniversary of his “Pulp Fiction” winning the Palm D’Or at this festival on the French Riviera:
Bilge Ebiri, “New York Magazine/ Vulture”: “It’s the most fun the director seems to have had in years, but it’s also, oddly, his most compassionate picture in more than a decade. There’s a lilting sadness at the film’s heart, perfectly encapsulated by the way it intercuts between the world of a leading man whose time has passed and a happening starlet for whom everything feels fresh and new.”
Justin Chang, “Los Angeles Times”: “Richly evocative, conceptually jaw-dropping, excessively foot-fetishizing, inescapably terrifying and unexpectedly poignant movie.”
Fionnuala Halligan, “Screen International”: “In a cheerful double-act, Pitt and DiCaprio’s two best-buddy losers provide our entry into the TV and film world of the late 1960s. Both stars are fiercely enjoyable to watch here in their first pairing, with DiCaprio in full flight as an insecure boozehound actor who has seen better days and Pitt as his laconic former stunt double and current odd job man/driver who is nifty with his fists.”
Richard Lawson, “Vanity Fair”: “This curious fairy tale may not be the truth, and it may prattle on too long. But when its stars align, and they let loose with their unmistakable shine, Hollywood movies do seem truly special again. And, sure, maybe TV does too.”
Steve Pond, The Wrap: “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” is big, brash, ridiculous, too long, and in the end, invigorating. It’s a grand playground for the director to further fetishize old pop culture, to break things and hurt people, and to bring a wide-eyed glee and a robust sense of perversity to the whole craft of moviemaking.”
Will Oscar be calling Quentin, Brad and Leo’s names? It just may rely on the public’s response to what seems to be a mature auteur doing what he does best.