***Fair warning, if you haven’t watched Once Upon a Time In Hollywood yet go away, watch the movie and then come back to read this feature…as full spoilers will be discussed***
When Quentin Tarantino’s ode to the heady days of 1960’s Hollywood was released in cinema’s last August it’s fair to say that the movie attracted its fair share of criticism and controversy. Violence against women, racism, and a lead character who has murdered his wife…allegedly being paraded as a hero, were all themes levied at the film.
Despite being critically acclaimed and showered with nominations at awards season time, the movie has also been divisive within the cinema going public. One criticism aimed at the film is that there is no coherent story and is a selection of scenes, something I don’t necessarily agree with. There is a clear narrative, Rick Dalton (Leonardo Di Caprio), once a big star in the 1950’s on NBC prime time cowboy drama Bounty Law, is now reduced to playing bad guy roles on shows like FBI and Lancer. As he slowly works his way back up the Hollywood ladder. Admittedly a bit flimsy but there is a story here. To contradict my opinion above, I have picked my five favourite scenes/sequences below.
This is a short and sweet scene but I love it. Coming together after a stressful and bizarre day on set of Lancer and at the Spahn ranch, Rick & Cliff settle down on the sofa to watch Rick’s episode of FBI “All The Streets Are Silent”, in a clever bit of computer trickery Leonardo Di Caprio playing mercenary Michael Murtagh a part played originally by Burt Reynolds. One of the reasons why this film is so good is the on screen partnership between these two Hollywood Heavyweights. They had never acted in the same movie before but you would think they had been acting together for decades. No scene highlights the effortless charm and chemistry between Leo and Brad better. We are essentially watching an episode of Gogglebox as they smoke and drink beer but we are glad to be there with them.
4. Sharon Tate watching the Wrecking Crew
Rick is meeting agent Marvin Schwarz (Al Pacino) in a Hollywood restaurant to discuss his career and potential new roles. Rick’s stammer and insecurities are played brilliantly by Leo and any confidence this once exciting star of Bounty Law had, have sadly disappeared. Burnt out playing villain guest slots on TV. Schwarz, reveals that he sat down the night before in his screening room with Mary-Alice Schwaaaaaaaarrz for a Rick Dalton double feature of “Tanner” and “The 14 Fists of McCluskey”. The latter, is a delicious throwback to 1960s WW2 movies and Tarantino’s own “Inglorious Basterds”. The clip of the film ends with another classic quote “Did anybody order fried sauerkraut?” as the Nazi henchmen receive a roasting from the flamethrower which makes a reprise later in the movie to such crowd pleasing effect. I would pay to watch a full length version!
Rick has gotten himself a part on the pilot of prime time show “Lancer” as the bad guy, as is his usual career MO. The adventures of Rick Dalton continue as he is playing Caleb DeCoteau a bad guy with an almost comedic appearance. Filming a pivotal scene with Jim Stacey (Timothy Olyphant) as Johnny Madrid this plays out across numerous scenes and intersected with Cliff and Sharon’s jaunts out and about. The sequence I am going with is after Rick has fluffed his lines a few times and storms back to his trailer. In a scene completely ad-libbed by Di Caprio, Rick loses it and smashes up the place, shouting obscenities in a sequence very reminiscent of the mirror scene in Taxi Driver “Are you talking to me?”. It’s hilarious and shows that Di Caprio does have great comic chops, something first glimpsed in Wolf of Wall Street and Critters 3??
A real edge of your seat sequence, and because this a Tarantino film you just don’t know which way this is going to go for Cliff? This whole sequence would not be out of place in a film like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes. After picking up young hitchhiker Pussycat (Margret Quilley), Cliff learns that she is currently living at an old movie ranch he used to work on and is curious to see what has happened to his old boss George Spahn (Bruce Dern). Spahn Ranch of course, was infamous as the hangout of Charles Manson and followers “The Manson Family”. The moment Cliff starts moseying around the place, he annoys Squeaky (Dakota Fanning) enquiring about George’s wellbeing and she informs him that George is sleeping in the back as she so eloquently puts it “I fucked his brains out last night” and he needs a nap before watching FBI later.