mon 17/06/2024

Cannes 2019: Once Upon a Time In Hollywood review - sun-soaked black comedy | reviews, news & interviews

Cannes 2019: Once Upon a Time... In Hollywood review - sun-soaked black comedy

Cannes 2019: Once Upon a Time... In Hollywood review - sun-soaked black comedy

25 years after Pulp Fiction's Cannes premiere, Tarantino wrestles with one of Hollywood's most notorious moments

Leonardo DiCaprio as ageing film star Rick Dalton

Moments before Quentin Tarantino’s blistering, outrageous work screened at Cannes, a message was delivered on behalf of the director, asking reviewers to avoid spoilers. It’s easy to see why. There’s a lot of pleasure in the film’s initial shock value, So yes, let’s avoid spoilers. But the surprises aren’t what make this film so good.

Tarantino has form when it comes to handling ensemble pieces, but not since Pulp Fiction has it been so richly rendered. Yes, there are elements of Inglourious Basterds, and tonally reminiscent of Jackie Brown, but this film is Tarantino at his finest.

The film opens in early 1969. TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), are being interviewed for a promo for the cowboy show they work on. Dalton is tetchy - easily upset if it’s suggested that he’s had his day. Booth passes his time massaging Dalton’s ego when necessary and carrying out repairs on his own Benedict Canyon home where he spends the evenings with his four-legged home security Brandy, (incidentally a shoo-in for this year’s Palme Dog).Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon a Time... In HollywoodNext door live a pair of newlyweds, Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) and Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). Tarantino’s script plays teasingly with our expectations - the world of the film is a mash-up of fiction and fact presented in an undeniably fairytale version of Tinsel Town

That’s not to say this isn’t a world populated by real life figures. In a side-splitting scene Bruce Lee (Mike Moh) pops up, challenging Booth to a fight, with hilarious consequences. Then there’s Damian Lewis’ brief appearance as Steve McQueen, and Nicholas Hammond as Sam Wannamaker.

The chemistry between Pitt and DiCaprio is infectious, and Robbie has Tate down to a tee, pulling off scenes from Phil Karlson’s The Wrecking Crew with great comic effect. But it’s DiCaprio who steals the show with his performance as a neurotic fading star. He may play grizzled men’s men, but is something of a cry-baby at heart, desperate to cling on to his career.Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon a Time... In HollywoodOnce Upon A Time…In Hollywood’s craft is bold, and Tarantino is at his most skilful. It’s a comical, violent, brazen love letter to Hollywood, with the director showcasing his affection for everything from the mechanics of filmmaking to the absurdity of it all.

There’s also something utterly joyous about the way Tarantino builds films within films. The narrative is peppered with meta-moments. We may be watching Dalton star as a grizzled gunslinger in Spaghetti westerns, only to be jolted out of the action when we hear the on-screen director shout cut. It’s outrageous, brash filmmaking that only Tarantino is capable of pulling off.

Every element - from the carefully curated 60s songs that populate the film (including the wry use of The Mama’s & The Papa’s ‘California Dreaming’) to the palate of azure blues and deep ochres - is exceptional. Many wondered quite how Tarantino could handle a subject as sensitive as the murder of Sharon Tate. This is his answer. And it’s glorious.


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