Quintin Tarantino’s ninth film, “Once Upon a Time In Hollywood,” bent time while retelling the Manson family murders of 1960s starlet Sharon Tate and company. However, the lack of narrative caused the film to fall flat among others in the director’s repertoire.
The film follows fading western star, Rick Dalton (Leonardo Dicaprio) and his stunt man, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) as they try to navigate this new-fangled Hollywood.
Dalton lives in the Hollywood Hills on the infamous Cielo Drive next to Director Roman Polanski and rising star Tate. True crime buffs will recognize the Tate and Polanski residence as the location to the gruesome 1969 murders of Tate as well as four others by the Manson family.
Those familiar with Manson family and the respective Aug. 9, 1969 murders, will also notice the Manson family narrative sprinkled throughout the movie — Spahn Ranch, Tex Watson and of course, Charles Manson himself, referenced in the film as Charlie.
Tarantino relies far too heavily on public knowledge of the high-profile slayings to drive the narrative of the film. Since he considers the murders and details surrounding them common knowledge, without that knowledge there is seemingly no cinematic tension, what Tarantino is famous for.
Without recognizing these Manson family tidbits, the average viewer will quickly become bored with the film and confused by the star-power playing seemingly meaningless roles, such as Margot Robbie’s Tate or Dakota Fanning’s Squeaky.
That being said, both Dicaprio and Pitt offer Oscar-worthy performances, possibly because their lead characters are in similar career positions they are finding themselves in today. The true star of the show is Booth’s ferociously obedient and loving pitbull, Brandy — played by Sayuri the pitbull. She offers arguably the best and most complex performance in the entire film.
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” would not be a Tarantino film without a few easter eggs scattered throughout the work. The pseudo-true-story was colored by a slew of references to 1960s Hollywood, from Bruce Lee and Steve McQueen to members of the Mama’s and the Papa’s. Tarantino also references his own movies such as “Inglorious Bastards.”
My personal favorite reference in the movie lays in the namesake of the film. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is a reference to the 1968 spaghetti western, and a personal favorite of my father’s, “Once Upon a Time in the West.” Not only does the title foreshadow Dalton eventually working on spaghetti westerns in Italy, but pays tribute to the movie’s director, Sergio Leone. Dalton even works with a director of a similar name during his time overseas.
While hard to follow at times, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” acted as an extremely intriguing alternate history and take on life in the film-industry during the 1960s. I would recommend the film to anyone willing to research the Manson family before viewing.
Makayla Grijalva is the managing editor for the Daily Lobo and can be contacted at Managingeditor@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @MakaylaEliboria