Quentin Tarantino has one of the best track records of any director in movie history. From his 1992 debut Reservoir Dogs to 2015’s Hateful Eight, he has delivered one memorable film after another. Strong performances, excellent storytelling, and extreme violence are all hallmarks of a Tarantino film. His stories have taken audiences into the criminal underworld, World War II, and the Wild West. With 2019’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Tarantino revisits the event that many say brought an end to an era.
It goes without saying that Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the greatest actors of all time. Much like Tarantino, DiCaprio has a career filled with critically acclaimed movies. His list of nominations and wins is incredible and he is a perennial Oscar contender having been nominated six times. It is difficult to pick a favorite DiCaprio performance.
Chances are OUTinHollywood will continue the trend. As aging actor Rick Dalton, DiCaprio puts on what is arguably the finest performance of this storied career. Dalton is an aging actor whose career seems to be on the downswing. It sounds like a trope, but Dalton is different. He is self aware and is willing to change with the times. He is not a struggling actor forced to take on demeaning work. He is an older one who is taking the parts he wants in order to stay relevant.
DiCaprio brings a realism and charm to Dalton that makes it work. Dalton is not so much a flawed person as he is a regular one. Early in the film he states he worked hard, got lucky, treaded water, and is now being forced out the door. In other words, he is just another person who was in the right place at the right time but now that time is up. Anyone in the audience can relate to Rick.
Rick is a very emotional person. Throughout his career, DiCaprio has done a great job of demonstrating his range. OUTinHollywood is no different, as Rick goes through a myriad of emotions over the course of the movie. Rick deals with bouts of self doubt, sadness, and anger and DiCaprio displays them all perfectly. Rick Dalton may be a famous actor, but DiCaprio makes him seen as vulnerable as anyone else.
This portrayal gives Rick a down to earth appeal that is not seen often in DiCaprio’s characters. Normally, audiences cheer for DiCaprio because he is the hero or the damaged person trying to make good. Here, he brings humor to the character that is normally not seen. Watching Rick’s struggles are not funny, but the performance will illicit laughs. Rick is a complex character and DiCaprio plays the part perfectly.
Brad Pitt also does a great job as Rick’s friend and stunt double Cliff Booth. Pitt’s performance is more subdued as Cliff does not have the same emotional variety as his actor buddy. Cliff is the motivational friend everyone has. The person who sees every glass as half full and is always there to give a pat you a pat on the back.
What makes Cliff such an endearing character is how grounded he is. He is making ends meet by being Rick’s gopher. Despite knowing things can be much better, he walks around with a smile on his face and is eager to help his friend. He does not have the same shaken confidence that plagues Rick and is very happy with how his life has turned out.
The most happy and fun character in OUTinHollywood is Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate. Every time Tate is on screen, the entire movie seems to take on a lighter tone. Tate is impossibly bubbly. From her rhythmic entrance into the Playboy Mansion to her giddiness at watching herself on screen, Robbie’s Tate is a joy to watch.
Tarantino’s script is excellent. Rick and Cliff are not just two characters the audience wants to cheer for. They are people we know and may even be friends with. There is none of the normal divide that is seen between actors and the public. Tate comes off as a rising starlet that will be the next big thing in Hollywood. Tate may not share as much screen time, but her charisma is felt the entire film.
OUTinHollywood does a wonderful job of almost making the audience forget about the grisly events that surround Tate in 1969. The characters take center stage. The plot works on three separate fronts. There is the story of the aging Rick who is trying to stay relevant, the friendship between the actor and his stunt double, and Tate herself. It would not be a stretch to say that OUTinHollywood is more about people than events. The film is more episodic than serial with only themes tying it all together.
Despite this direction, the movie has a constant sense of dread in the background. Even those who may not be familiar with the Manson family will recognize the danger this commune brings to the movie. It is never overpowering, but it is enough to make OUTinHollywood more than a movie about people navigating 1960’s Los Angeles. Tarantino adds danger to his film without taking away from the central characters.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is another outstanding movie from Quentin Tarantino. Realistic characters and marvelous storytelling make it one of the best films of 2019. OUTinHollywood reaches the high bar Tarantino has set for himself.