Quentin Tarantino has written a love letter. One filled with history and wishful thinking. What happens when a man who is well known for his love and obsession with old Hollywood gets to bring us his version of events? You get a personal story with a little bit of a twist. This undoubtedly looks and feels like a Tarantino film, but has a level of restraint I did not expect.
Set in 1969, amongst the backdrop of old Hollywood, we get to see fact intersect with fiction. Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) is an aging tv veteran who is past his glory days of staring in old black and white westerns and has been reduced to playing the “heavy” in someone else’s show. He has a stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), who is not only his friend, but also drives him around and is an all around personal assistant. The dynamic between these two is what makes this movie tick. Their story intersects with history as it turns out Daltons neighbors are none other than Roman Polanaski (Rafal Zawierucha) and Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). Charles Manson’s cult of free loving killers bring the two narratives together.
The film itself harkens back to the glory days of Hollywood, the age of “studio pictures” and larger than life stars, stars like Newman and Redford, which echo nicely here and make this all the more enjoyable. The film is at its best when DiCaprio is having crisis and succumbing to his lack of self esteem, trying his best to earn the respect of his peers and having meltdowns in his trailer. Brad Pitt is always hilarious, but his darkly comedic turn here is peak Pitt and probably deserves some recognition. While the duo is trying to get work, we get small vignettes into the life of Margot Robbie playing Tate perfectly, as an almost angelic presence. She is always seen smiling, dancing, and being all around lovely.
The polarizing end seemed to explode off the screen. Tarantino had been showing such restraint with violence for most of the film that when it was time to let loose he did not hold anything back. The violence is jarring considering we spent the first two thirds of the film following around the characters in their day to day life, with nothing particularly dangerous happening at all. It is at this point when the fiction becomes the reality and absurdity of senseless violence takes center stage. In the end Tarantino has created a brilliant world filled with the characters we have come to expect. If he is truly considering hanging up his hat, he can leave happy, knowing he has made a near perfect masterpiece.