Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is the next cult classic. Let’s start with Quentin Tarantino. When anyone utters his name I reckon many of us think of the same thing. Violence. Extreme, graphic and bloody. It’s only after a few of the more famous deaths in Tarantino’s films pass through my mind that I start to think of everything else I associate with the 56 year-old filmmaker. His worldwide stardom, for a start. His previous eight films, many if not all of which are also cult classics. His seemingly endless flirtations with controversy from gun violence in America to describing statutory rape as “not quite the same thing” as rape. Even with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, his ninth film, Tarantino has opened himself up to a number of allegations. Misogyny seems to be the one many are using. Some critics will label it and simply move on. Whatever anyone says about it you must see this film. And you will. Because it’s a Quentin Tarantino.
Tarantino usually seems to have a thirst for upfront violence in his films, so what surprised me most in this film is the lack of on-screen violence. That is until the last 15 or so minutes. But it’s a three-hour film. The rest is just plot.
You don’t need to know much backstory when you walk into the cinema, but you have probably heard of the Hollywood actress Sharon Tate (played in this film by Margot Robbie) and the Manson family. The film’s storyline culminates on 8th August 1969, which in reality was the day members of the Manson family brutally murdered a heavily pregnant Sharon Tate and four others. It was a mass murder that stunned Hollywood, and propelled Charles Manson and his cult of followers to infamy.
As I sat in the darkness of the cinema I expected at every turn to witness this unimaginable yet true violence. Slowly, Tarantino built up the story of actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) whose career is starting to wane and his possibly wife-murdering stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Tarantino peppers the film with references, allusions to, and the possibility of violence, yet for the most of it there are only hints of violence. Overall this film is surprising. It’s comical at times and sad at others, but again, don’t expect anything less than a cult classic. That is what it will become.