An ensemble cast brings life to a comedy drama set against the sights and sounds of 1960s Hollywood, as imagined by Quentin Tarantino.
Written and Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Produced by: David Heyman, Shannon McIntosh, Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Leonardo Di Caprio, Brad Pitt, Al Pacino, Margot Robbie
Music Supervisor: Mary Ramos
Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) is an ageing star of Hollywood movies, who has played popular roles in Western movies, cowboy TV dramas and is now reduced to playing a baddie in TV series. Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) is a stuntman and Dalton’s body double, who is “more than a brother, less than a wife”. Schwarz (Al Pacino) is a producer who strives to sign up Dalton for spaghetti Westerns. Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) is an upcoming movie star on the threshold of fame. And there is the Manson family (a bunch of hippie girls) who have taken over an abandoned movie shooting ranch. The plot and the timeline of the comedy drama seems to take the murder of Sharon Tate in Hollywood in 1969 as the reference point. The rest is the fertile imagination of Tarantino, which seems to turn the plot on its head!
In classic Tarantino fashion, the film employs multiple threads running parallel to each other – the struggles of Rick Dalton, the drab life of Cliff Booth, the rise of a starry-eyed Sharon Tate and finally the macabre story of the Manson family, living on the fringes of society – unifying in a spectacular fashion in the second half.
The plot of the comedy-drama centres around how Rick Dalton and his “more than a brother, less than a wife” stuntman-friend navigate the ever-changing Hollywood industry of the 60s. Characters such as Sharon Tate, Roman Polanski and Dalton’s other high-profile neighbors provide a fitting backdrop to the motley duo as their story progresses. DiCaprio’s acting prowess shines as he gives life to a movie star coming to terms with the transient nature of his stardom. In a sea of talent, there’s many a slip between the cup and the lip as competition edges out even great actors. In such a scenario, he finds himself reluctantly agreeing with seemingly eccentric costumes and movies as he grasps for straws trying to stay relevant in the movie industry.
Meanwhile, Pitt excels as his loyal and trustworthy friend who, over the course of the film dons multiple hats – that of his stuntman, driver, handyman and what not. He stays by Dalton’s side in spite of his own career not going anywhere. Despite his shadowy past, he is depicted as a man of honour who doesn’t shy away from checking the well-being of an old friend, even on an isolated ranch facing the hostility of the Manson family (followers of cult leader Charles Manson who gained notoriety for a string of high-profile murders in the US in 1969, most famously that of Sharon Tate). And the scene where the macho stuntman Booth confronts a flashy and phenomenal action hero on the sidelines of a shoot is more than just comical, pitting someone playing a part against someone who has “been there, done that.”
Without spending much time on developing characters other than Dalton and Booth, Tarantino drills down on the ever-changing nature of Hollywood with mastery, showcasing via the rising fortunes of Sharon Tate, how personal relationships dictate careers in Hollywood and how change is the only constant. Parallelly, we see the strength of Dalton and Booth’s friendship, showcasing how some relationships are more than a vehicle to achieve success.
The songs of the 1960s which feature in all critical scenes of the movie serve to enhance the edginess of the developing storyline, and lend gravity to the situation being depicted.
What happens to Dalton’s fledgling career? Does Booth ever hit the limelight? All these and more are questions that will be answered only by experiencing the roller-coaster ride that is Once Upon A Time in Hollywood.