Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for August 17th, 2019

Once upon a Time in Hollywood ****

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 17th August, 2019

Once upon a Time in HollywoodI have always abhorred violence, so Quentin Tarantino has never been one of my favourite directors. Indeed, I walked out of a screening of Pulp Fiction in Havana, to the disgust of my Cuban companion. But the director’s latest movie, Once upon a Time in Hollywood, got such positive preview hype that I thought I had better try it out — and I am glad I did. It’s over two-and-a-half hours long — admittedly with a couple of longueurs in the middle that could have been pared down — but most of it is hugely entertaining, inventive, quirky and a film buff’s dream. The movie is sprinkled with countless celluloid references, like hundreds and thousands on an ice cream sundae. I particularly enjoyed the stand-off between “Bruce Lee” and Brad Pitt’s character, stunt man Cliff Booth, when Booth refers to Lee as Cato, like the character who springs surprise attacks on Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther movies, though I can understand why Lee’s family and friends are not amused. Cliff Booth works for his great mate, actor Rick Salton (Leonardo DiCaprio), who is on a downward career slide oiled by a considerable amount of booze. His playing the baddie in Wild West “B” movies provides Tarantino plenty of opportunities for nods to that genre. The film itself is firmly set in 1969 Hollywood and is pitch-perfect when it comes to the period setting: the cars, the clothes, the dreadful shows on daytime TV. But when Charles Manson’s “Family” materialises one just knows things are going to get nasty behind their superficial hippy loopyness. Brad Pitt really comes into his own staring them down, but as “Sharon Tate” has been popping up in several short interludes and becomes increasingly pregnant, one imagines (or at least I did) that we are about to witness the slaughter of her and her friends. Wrong. That’s not what happens at all. The carnage when it comes is so unexpected and played partly for comic effect that one’s emotions are kicked about like a rubber ball, while rooting for the dog at the centre of the action. There is so much else in the film that is genuinely hilarious that even this loather of violence couldn’t squirm in his seat, let alone make for the door. So although this is not a perfect masterpiece, I believe it is a bloody fine film.    

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