I’ve slept on this review because I just haven’t been sure about what to say. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy this movie experience, quite the opposite. It’s by one of my favourite directors* so there’s a lot to love and I did enjoy it overall, I think it’s just that – there’s a lot to unpack.
All I’m really sure about is that I need another viewing STAT and next time probably in the comfort of my own home. Without two drunk Aussies sitting directly in front of me waving their arms about.
A faded television actor and his stunt double strive to achieve fame and success in the film industry during the final years of Hollywood’s Golden Age in 1969 Los Angeles.
The 9th Film from Quentin Tarantino.
Ageing movie and now TV star Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) is having a crisis of career confidence. Relegated to bad guy of the week guest spots, he’s reluctant to take his seasoned talent to Italy’s spaghetti westerns as suggested by big shot casting agent Marvin Schwarz (Al Pacino). His long time stunt double and now personal assistant Cliff Booth (Pitt) drives him around wherever he needs to go and that’s about it. When Dalton gets him a stunt gig on his latest project, Booth fucks it up by beating up the talent. The talent being one Bruce Lee (Mike Moh).
This leaves Booth at a loose end so it’s no wonder he ends up in the company of a prepubescent hippie girl at Spahn Ranch, home of the Manson Family. Meanwhile, Dalton’s next door neighbour, rising star Sharon Tate (Robbie) is on her own journey.
On the surface of it, that’s about it – except that we’re all familiar with the story of the Tate murders and this adds to the ambience. Plus its a QT movie so that’s never just it. As Robbie’s luminous Tate lights up the screen it’s with trepidation that we following her arc – knowing how it all ends. I honestly didn’t know what to expect or where they were going with the Manson connection and although the outcome was deeply satisfying, I’m still a little on the fence. Maybe because this isn’t the first film I’ve watched lately that tries to re-imagine that fateful night – The Haunting of Sharon Tate literally sets her up as a psychic who saves them all just in the nick of time.
OUATIH is infinitely better than the above-mentioned Hilary Duff vehicle obviously but I can’t help it coming to mind in relation. I’m also happy I finished Helter Skelter when I did. Spahn Ranch and the girls were exactly as I pictured them. While this Hollywood homage isn’t quite as steeped in QT’s signature flourishes, he does capture the essence of actually being there.
The performances are top notch, DiCaprio rarely gets it wrong but he’s absolutely brilliant as washed up Rick Dalton. Brad Pitt too plays his part with relish. Booth is an enigma really, followed through Hollywood by the rumour that he murdered his own wife but, apart from a brief flashback, we never find out more. This is clever on the director’s part as we never really know where we are with the seemingly good Booth. What matters here though is the friendship between the two male leads – and their chemistry is really something.
“Hey! You’re Rick fucking Dalton. Don’t you forget it.” ~ Cliff Booth
Some of my favourite scenes are between child actress Trudi (Julia Butters) and Dalton. I can’t understand how a kid can be that accomplished yet believable an actress but she’s incredible. She’s a little Margot Robbie in training.
“It’s official, old buddy. I’m a has-been” ~ Rick Dalton
All of the above but also, I enjoyed the inclusion of the real Sharon Tate on the cinema screen when our Tate goes to watch herself. It was poignant and sad, Tate being such a sympathetic beauty by default. When I first watched this I thought anyone could have played Tate but I was wrong. Lovely Margot Robbie is so effervescent and gorgeous, she absolutely nails the sixties zeitgeist.
Like most people I’m more than a little interested in True Crime, so I was mostly here for Charles Manson, the central performances and because I can’t imagine not being intrigued about what Tarantino does next. Interestingly, Manson is only spied once for just a moment and this only adds to his mystique. The Family, more or less run in Manson’s absence by Gypsy (Lena Dunham), are intriguing enough in their own right. Booth’s meeting with George Spahn (Bruce Dern), under the watchful eye of Squeaky (Dakota Fanning) is very tense but hilarious.
Finally, while the climax is shocking in its sheer violence – even by my standards – now I’ve had a chance to sit with it, I kind of love the concept of a moment in time changing history forever. It ends on a hopeful note and that is kind of beautiful.
Shit, turns out maybe I loved it more than I originally thought.
What are you watching?