In Review of… 2021 (Part Two)
Following on from last week’s visit to the best Book and Tv show that kept me going through 2021, this week, I turn my thoughts to the best Film (honourable mentions also included), that aided me in coping with the difficult year we were still experiencing.
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
In a year where I watched some incredible films such as Joyeux Noel, The White Tiger and The Trial of the Chicago 7, it took me a long while into the current Pandemic, to finally catch up with Quentin Tarantino’s latest film, which by then had already been out for two years and had garnered many notable (and in my humble opinion, deserved) awards worldwide, for its direction, writing, production design and acting.
I’ve had a bit of a love-hate relationship with Tarantino movies over the years, ranging from not enjoying Pulp Fiction (I know, I am probably alone here with that statement) and The Hateful Eight, to not really understanding the hype, but still liking films such as Reservoir Dogs, and the Kill Bill volumes. Until recently with Django Unchained and the thoroughly enjoyable indulgence that was Inglourious Basterds, my favourite Tarantino film was 1997’s excellent, but usually under-the-radar as far as his films go, Jackie Brown.
Fast-forward twenty four years to 2021, and I sat down with my wife to finally watch Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, his latest love-letter to the silver screen.
And what a love letter is!
Rick Dalton had huge success with his Tv show Bounty Law in the 50’s, but hasn’t had any credible work since then in the eyes of most producers, taking bit-parts in films and Tv shows, getting type-cast as the go-to-guy to play that instantly fogettable villain. Struggling with his demons, Rick takes what he can get, but his heavy drinking and smoking is drying up his chances of any roles, and he spends most of his time between shoots, in the pool of his hollywood mansion, drunkenly dreaming of success and acutely aware that his new neighbours are Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) and Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie).
However, Rick has a fan in producer Marvin Schwarz (played wonderfully by a screen-chewing Al Pacino) – well to be exact, Marvin’s wife seems the his biggest fan, and he is keen to drag Rick from his depths with an offer of doing some Spaghetti Westerns, once he finishes filming for a pilot of Tv show, Lancer. Perhaps, afterall, Rick, and in turn, Cliff, may well still have that chance.
For me, the genius of this film, whose running time is almost 2hrs 40 minutes and could put off some viewers, is the attention to details of Hollywood at that time – it is astounding. And here, also, is where my favourite character takes the helm, Cliff Booth, played by Brad Pitt in what could arguably be his best role. We see Hollywood through his eyes, as he drives Rick from set-to-set, to meetings, and back home again. Cliff lives across town, well away from the luxury homes in the hills, living in a trailer behind a drive-in cinema, with his dog, Brandy.
With no work, because of his dark past and reputation, Cliff is actually just Rick’s chauffeur, ferrying him here and there, fixing things around Rick’s mansion when he is not home, making sure Rick get’s home safely when he can barely stand on his feet. It’s a slow-burning, wonderful narrative and yet, at no time does this lengthy film feel slow, as it draws you in to that period of cinema history.
And it’s through the ever-enjoyable company of Cliff, that we are introduced to the film’s darker side, of which I will only say is started when Cliff finally decides to pick up the young hitch-hiker he keeps seeing, brilliantly played by Margaret Qualley (Maid) and give her a lift back to where she lives.
I won’t say anything else about the plot, as the film’s climax is as beautiful as it is shocking. If you know anything about the events this film portrays, you will be mesmerised by how wonderfully Tarantino weaves his ‘What if…’ world he has created here, blending fact with fiction. There are many wonderful cameos, of which I will let you discover for yourself, stellar performances (Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio make an amazing duo) and stand-out moments – one of my favourites being the scene where Cliff is on the set of The Green Hornet, listening to Bruce Lee talk (brilliantly played by Mike Moh).
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is a triumph of direction, story-telling and production. As with all of his films, the soundtrack is incredible, the cast are all on their A-game and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Though understated for a Tarantino film, it is a beautiful, heart-felt love-letter to that period, as compelling as it is shocking. If you are not a Tarantino fan, but you are a fan of film, you should give this one a try.
I am certainly glad that I did.
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019)
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Running Time: 159 mins (18)
My rating: 9.75/10
Join me next week, as I conclude my ‘In Review of… 2021’, with a look at the best Board Game and Video Game, and, as always, please feel free to share your thoughts on any of my reviews.