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The sun sets on 1969 in Tarantino’s “Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood”

January 31 through February 2, Union South Marquee, multiple showtimes, free. Info

Perennial fanboy favorite Quentin Tarantino regales us with a tragic American tale out of the late-sixties as the façade of American exceptionalism was slowly but surely starting to crumble. Anyone who has seen a Tarantino film (from Pulp Fiction to Inglorious Basterds) has an idea of what to expect on some level: ultra-violence, urbane and witty dialogue, and close-ups of feet. These features are present to be sure, but Tarantino has mellowed-out to some extent in this film. Less stylistic and more focused on his actors, Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood (2019) might be the director at his most vulnerable.

While the denouement of this film builds up toward altering the course of the notorious Tate-LaBianca murders of 1969, its other two acts primarily focus on the lives of Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) as they navigate their way through the film industry in Hollywood. Rick Dalton is the fading television star of Bounty Law with Booth standing in as his stunt double. As Dalton struggles with the sun going down on his career, Booth offers moral support and remains faithfully at his side. Margot Robbie even has a turn here as the luminous Sharon Tate theatrically taking in her perceived ascent into stardom in her real-life bit part in The Wrecking Crew (1969), foreshadowing the end of the free love, hippie-dippie counter-culture, which was not as peaceful as many people happen to remember.

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Bloody vengeance notwithstanding, Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood is really a film about male friendships and how they evolve through time and age. It’s about a man searching for his ever-changing place in the world that seems to be quickly moving along without him, just as Tarantino’s life may mirror Dalton’s experiences. He has been great, but are his best years behind him? In a scene with a precocious eight-year-old actress (Julia Butters), DiCaprio reminds us why he indeed is one of the finest actors of his generation and deserved every bit of that Oscar for The Revenant (2015). This is a film that movie buffs will want to digest on the big screen, so be sure to take advantage at the Marquee.

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