Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was an amazing trip for baby-boomers - taking us back to when television was loaded with westerns and western TV stars, cigarette commercials, big cars, white go-go boots, and names bandied around some of us haven't heard in years. And the shows: Hootnanny, Mannix, the FBI.
And it's great to see some Hollywood celebrities -Mama Cass (Rachel Redleaf), Michelle Phillips (Rebecca Rittenhouse), Steve McQueen (Damien Lewis), James Stacy (Timothy Olyphant), Wayne Maunder (Luke Perry), Bruce Lee (Mike Moh), Connie Stevens (Dreama Walker).
It was not so great given their fates, but there were some other familiar names too: Jay Sebring, (Emile Hirsch), Abigail Folger (Samantha Robinson), Voytek Frykowski (Costa Ronin), and Squeaky Fromme (Dakota Fanning).
Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt star as series actor Rick Dalton and his stunt double, Cliff Booth. Booth isn't living the LA high life - far from it - and does part-time stunt work these days and basically acts as Rick's gofer.
Rick lives, as it turns out, on Cielo Drive, right next Sharon Tate (Margo Robbie) and Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha).
Tarantino has the Manson story down pat - Manson coming to look for Terry Melcher, Doris Day's son, because a proposed record deal never materialized. Sharon's pregnancy, weekend guests, the visit to El Coyote, even sitting at the right table (I've been there hundreds of times), and it did look like they actually filmed inside.
It was also fun to see Musso & Frank's Grill.
Rick Dalton, whose career is losing ground due to his alcoholism, makes an appearance on "Lancer," directed by Sam Waterston (Nicholas Hammond). Wanamaker, the original George in Virginia Woolf, did indeed do a lot of television directing.
Rick's time on Lancer is juxtaposed with Sharon going to see herself in a film, The Wrecking Crew. We see her young, beautiful, and happy.
I admit here that I felt the "Lancer" section was way too long, but part of that could be because I wasn't feeling that well during that time. It did show Rick determined to do a good job. The entire scene represents a wonderful tour de force for DiCaprio.
After a nostalgic and sometimes amusing wind-up, Tarantino goes into full Tarantino mode in the last forty minutes or so. Also stay through the credits; the movie doesn't end where you think it does.
So Tarantino in a way heals this beloved era and a time in Hollywood where everything was beginning to be in flux - western stars making films in Italy and Spain, the detective show taking the place of westerns, and events in the air that would change Hollywood forever.
Pitt and DiCaprio are dynamite together, DiCaprio, drunk, sad, but a man who can still act. Pitt is cool and takes life as it comes.
Another standout for me was Damien Lewis as Steve McQueen. The man's amazing.
However, the film is loaded with vignettes and memories in the corners of our minds as the song says, that if you're a boomer, you can't not love. It was the summer of love, it was a prelude to a much more somber time. For the non-boomers, there are DiCaprio and Pitt doing what they do best - being movie stars.
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