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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time..in Hollywood
Despite a perfect recreation of Hollywood in the 1960's and some charismatic performances, Quentin Tarantino's highly anticipated Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood doesn't completely measure up as it should thanks to a fuzzy and long-winded story that melds fictional and non-fictional stories to mixed effect.

It is February of 1969 and we are introduced to a television star named Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) who is the star of a popular western series called Bounty Law and his stunt double/driver/BFF Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) who seems to be content living in Rick's shadow. Just as Rick learns that he has snagged a role on a new western series called Lancer, he also learns that he has new neighbors...director Roman Polanski and his girlfriend Sharon Tate.

To be honest, I think Tarantino has bitten off a bit more that he can chew here, attempting to involve fictional characters in non-fiction events but if any director is going to attempt something like this, I'm glad it was Tarantino. Tarantino's recreation of Hollywood in the 60's was unlike anything I have ever seen...I was especially impressed with his meticulous gathering of television series and events that were appointment television in 1969, I can't remember the last time I heard the television show Lancer mentioned or actual clips of the opening sequences of Mannix or FBI utilized as storytelling tools. Only Tarantino would find a way to make actor James Stacy, who lost an arm and a leg in a motorcycle accident a few years after the events of this fim, a major character in a film.

Unfortunately, Tarantino's story unfolds at a deadening pace and spends WAY too much time on exposition. A good 15 minutes is spent watching Cliff come home and feed his dog, a relationship that is given screentime because it becomes important later. It really sort of brings the film, which has barely started to a screeching halt, which is deadly for a film that runs over 2 1/2 hours. I did enjoy the scene depicting Margot Robbie's Sharon Tate going to the movies to watch herself in the Matt Helm movie The Wrecking Crew and gauge audience reaction to the film, but I really didn't see what it had to do with the rest of the movie. The biggest disappointment for me was being let down by not getting what I expected from a story featuring Charlie Manson, Roman Polanksi, and Sharon Tate. The events of that tragic night in 1969 happen after this movie ends, so what was the point?

DiCaprio does turn in an explosive and full-bodied performance that allows him a pot belly, a few wrinkles, and the ability to operate a flame-thrower and Pitt is deliciously laid back as Booth. These performances are so professional it helps to keep the viewer invested to a point. It should also be mentioned that this film marked the final film appearance of the late Luke Perry, who played Wayne Maunder, one of the stars of Lancer, but this one was definitely a mixed bag, the good slightly outweighing the bad...only slightly.