“Rick Dalton” (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a fading TV star resorting to playing the bad guy in other stars TV shows, hoping to desperately cling to his celebrity status in LA 1969.
Dalton’s buddy “Cliff Booth” (Brad Pitt) is a trained stuntman doubling for Rick in the past. However, Booth has fallen on hard times following various incidents, he now drives Dalton around and the pair hang together at every opportunity.
Even when a chance of real employment arises, Booth manages to make a poor impression by getting into a fight with Bruce Lee on-set, not strictly speaking in his job description.
We then follow the duo through various studio settings, acting gigs and brushes with the movers and shakers of the era, including Steve McQueen (Damian Lewis). Also Roman Polanksi & wife Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), who happen to be living next door to Dalton in the Hollywood hills.
Producer “Marvin Schwarz” (Al Pacino) also provides Dalton a neat summary of his current career predicament, maybe a spell in Italian westerns would help?
The film is long at 161 minutes and perhaps represents Quentin Tarantino’s most Tanatinoesque outing yet, with obscure film and TV references scattered throughout. The period setting is cleverly achieved with cars, locations and costumes all seemingly pitch perfect for the era.
Tarantino is known for dialogue and violence and the last ten minutes certainly fulfills the second criteria but the dialogue fails to hit the high water mark. The story appears to go nowhere until the last ten minutes, so anyone unfamiliar with this period setting and no knowledge of the Manson murders will wonder what exactly is going on.
Tarantino has enjoyed blurring fact and fiction in the past, changing historical acts to fit his worldview, see “Inglorious Basterds” for reference. This is no different, however whether a younger audience will realize is debatable.
DiCaprio and Pitt certainly bring the star quality by the bucket load, oozing cool star appeal in every frame and creating an easy to believe on screen friendship. Pitt is especially at his most laconic, laid back movie star best.
Robbie makes the most of her role given her dialogue is so limited, using her expressions and body language to convey her feelings. Brief cameos from Kurt Russell and Bruce Dern threaten to liven up proceedings but then disappear from view.
Two further characters manage to make an impression, “Pussycat” Margaret Qualley part of the Manson family weirdness and “Trudi Fraser” (Julia Butters) as a young method actor. Fraser manages to set Dalton on a voyage of self discovery, with the the scenes they share some of the best in the film.
Overall the most indulgent of Tarantino’s nine feature length films. The screenplay showcasing a string of undoubtedly cool but seemingly unconnected scenes, desperately in need of some judicious editing.
A film sure to be appreciated by obscure film geeks and Tarantino fans alike but for everyone else, dare we say it…. the first Tarantino film to be described as well, a bit slow?
Hi Jules, good review. Exactly as I saw it, luv’ed spotting all the film and TV references. Pitt’s fight with Bruce Lee is hilarious, especially with the conversations with the stunt coordinators wife. The violence at the end was a bit of a shock, especially the fireplace section! When Di Caprio goes to the garden shed at the end you can guess what is coming and half the audience were grinning and laughing before the denouement. Ok it was a bit slow in places and there were scenes that didn’t make any sense until later in the movie which had me saying “oh I see now that is what that was about”, but can’t wait to see it again when it arrives on TV.