CHENNAI: “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” despite all the pre-release hullabaloo it created, is a far cry from Quentin Tarantino's best. It is certainly not in the league of his early films, “Reservoir Dogs” or “Kill Bill,” and far less impressive than what I consider his best, the fantasy drama, “Inglourious Basterds.”
Premiering at the Cannes Film Festival this year, the movie lays out a canvas of what Los Angeles and its most sparkling icon, Hollywood, were like in the late 1960s, years when Tarantino was growing up. In a skimpy plotline about an actor who does Westerns, the film's most exciting moments arrive when we meet the Manson Family at its run-down ranch.
The movie only casually refers to the horrific murder of Roman Polanski's heavily pregnant wife, Sharon Tate (an actress and model herself), by the Manson cult in 1969. But it has mostly to do with actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio in an exceptional piece of acting), whose days as a dashing Western cowboy are over, and feeling like an outcast, he begins to lean closer toward his stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt with his easy “Ocean's 11” swagger).
A large part of the thrill in their otherwise being-kicked-around-Hollywood life comes from their neighbour, Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). Many works have made a spectacle of the fate that befell Tate, but Tarantino avoids walking the same path.
Instead, he offers a lighter, brighter picture of LA in the days gone by, recreating Hollywood from that era before the end of the studio system. We can sense wistful nostalgia, even unabashed longing, but it’s breezy enough not to dampen our spirits.
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” has a rather tame climax. The work could disappoint some who may have anticipated something very different.