The latest work from Quentin Tarantino is perhaps the purest distillation of his cinematic obsessions yet, an elegiac ode to things that pass and things that never got a chance to be.
In early 1969, Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a former TV Western star struggling to remain relevant in a rapidly evolving cultural climate. After failing to break out as a movie star, Dalton has been reduced to TV guest-villain roles, and hopes to re-ignite his career, and that of his stunt double/best buddy/assistant Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt).
Dalton happens to live next to (real-life) actor and It Girl Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), who was infamously murdered in her Hollywood Hills home by followers of Charles Manson in August 1969.
The prospect of whether or how this historical event will impact Rick and Cliff hangs over the movie, a remarkably plotless affair that is essentially just a couple of days in the lives of these three characters.
At a glance it appears sparse, but Tarantino ultimately delivers a heartily satisfying cinematic meal. His interest in the history and minutiae of showbiz – not to mention its many inherent indignities - greatly informs the meaty relationships. The setting is re-created with an artful meticulousness that simply must be experienced. I have never been more effectively drawn into a historical period by a film.
DiCaprio is hilarious and affecting - this is the funniest he has ever been. Pitt exudes old-fashioned cinema cool, and Robbie's movie-star charisma goes supernova.
Although the pace is rarely more than lackadaisical, seeing Tarantino luxuriate in a world he created is never less than an absolute joy.
There are moments in the film that gave me serious pause, even when factoring in their implied justification. But I cannot deny that, overall, I was utterly swept up into Tarantino's Hollywood. And it was a glorious place to be.
Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie
R16 (Graphic violence, drug use, offensive language & sexual material)
A relaxed, rich and rewarding paean to a Hollywood long gone, and a Hollywood that never was.