An aging western “heavy”, Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), always playing the villain, and his long-time stuntman, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), are both finding their way through the late 60’s. Dalton is coming to terms with the decline of his career and Cliff is living a life below the poverty line while looking through the window of posh celebrity life. Both story lines give us a taste of different perspectives of the life of an actor in late 60’s Hollywood.
Both Leo and Brad have sympathizing characters that seem to, more or less, share the screen time. If anything, Cliff provides the lion’s share of the plot-driving development. It is surprising that he was nominated for the supporting role in this one.
The title “Once Upon a Time…” is a clear reference to Sergio Leone’s films, Once Upon a Time in the West and Once Upon a Time in America, a noted influence on Tarantino. The film pays homage to Leone’s trilogy, not just by name, but by bringing the audience to a specific and influential era of time and capturing the essence of the society it portrays.
It was interesting to see the direction that Tarantino decided to take the story line. Knowing what truly happened with Sharon Tate and the Manson family created a path for the viewer. Deviating from that path was Tarantino’s way of making the story his own and pulling focus away from the tragedy by transforming it into a classic Tarantino revenge focused film.
The purpose seems to be more than just creating a twist for sport, or to allow the characters to have a nice clean close to their stories/character development. Perhaps Tarantino, in his revisionist’s manner, wanted to create a timeline that didn’t perpetuate hate onto the undeserving. By focusing on Sharon Tate’s story, the audience got to see a side of her that goes beyond her just being one of the victims of the Manson family massacres.
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Cinematography: Robert Richardson
Written by: Quentin Tarantino
Edited by: Fred Raskin
Runtime: 2h 41m
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Releasing