‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ is a Love letter to Film-Making

In ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’, Leonardo DiCaprio portrays Hollywood actor Rick Dalton known for his role on the hit television western, ‘Bounty Law’. On the other hand, Brad Pitt is Rick Dalton’s friend and stunt double, Cliff Booth.  Together, Rick and Cliff guide us through the lives of Hollywood performers at the tail end of their careers amidst the  Americana landscape of the 1960s .

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Joining DiCaprio and Pitt, Margot Robbie provides a different perspective to the film-making landscape in her portrayal of Shanon Tate, wife of fictionalized director Roman Polanski. Through Shanon’s eyes, we are shown a different angle from that of Rick and Cliff’s. Basically, we get to see into the lives of the people who make up the Hollywood film industry in ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’.

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The 9th film of director Quentin Tarantino (out of a planned 10), ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ depicts a slice of the movie industry with the year 1969 as his backdrop for storytelling. The sets and designs aptly depict the culture of the times right down to every minute detail. However, Tarantino takes the path of historical revisionism to properly place his characters in his cinematic version of Hollywood. For the most part, this is done smoothly and with wit that highlights Tarantino’s directing flare.

There is one aspect of the regular timeline that Tarantino takes more liberty to interpreting than others, though; and this greatly impacts the resolution of the film. With this modified retelling of historical fact, Tarantino is blatantly suggesting that his altered reality of American history should be more fact than fiction. He shows that to great effect in ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’.

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As you watch the film, you have to be keen-eyed on the details as they pass by from scene to scene. The weaving of the background elements contribute to the overall narrative of the film and in some ways provide a guiding context into the story’s direction. The clues are sneakily built in as to who is who and what is what.

There are also several famous pop culture film icons that show up in the form of people and places. This further highlights the level of detail that was put into ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’. It is as if you are transported into the movie’s era in spite of being a captive audience. It also tells a story that is equally captivating and entertaining.

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Make no mistake. ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ is a Quentin Tarantino film, and it is also one of his finest works. It delves deep into the cultural psyche of the era and exemplifies it with the excellent cast. In fact, one of the strongest points of the film is its layered character portrayals.

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Though it is a period piece, you do not need to be familiar with the historical backdrop of the era to appreciate ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’.

Knowledge of 1960s America will enhance your viewing experience, but you can be equally entertained without it. This is just the magic of Quentin Tarantino and how he approaches his film-making.

If you’re a fan of movies, film-making, and/or Tarantino, then you should give this movie a try.  Even if you’re not, the viewing experience alone will expand your understanding on what makes a great movie.

Be ready for a guided tour of 1969. ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ is now showing in Philippine cinemas.