Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood (M18)

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie

Directed by Quentin Tarantino

Let’s cut to the chase: only the last 30 minutes in Quentin Tarantino’s ninth feature matter. Without giving away too much, it’s the bit where historical facts get rewritten drastically, a sequence is so brazenly bonkers and cheerfully nasty that it feels like it belongs in another movie. 

The first two hours is a mixed bag, though. Set in 1969, the story largely concerns Leonardo DiCaprio’s washed-up actor Rick Dalton and Brad Pitt’s Cliff Booth, Dalton’s stunt double-cum-butler, dinosaurs struggling to stay relevant in an industry on the cusp of tumultuous changes. 

(QT never really goes into why 1969 is such a landmark year — he expects you to know, so go brush up on your showbiz history with Peter Biskind’s book, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock 'N' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood.

The fictional duo cross paths with a bevy of real-life personalities — the Manson Family cult (holy smoke, is that Lena Dunham?), rising starlet Sharon Tate (a criminally underused Margot Robbie), and Bruce Lee (a played-for-laughs altercation between the martial arts icon, played by Mike Moh, and Booth leaves a bad taste in my mouth). 

The movies/TV shows-within-the-movie are fun (The WWII thrillerThe 14 Fists of McCluskey  is a fake flick waiting to be greenlit), but for the most part, Once Upon a Time… is a self-indulgent, aimless ride of in-jokes, celebrity spotting and vintage rock tunes. 

Think of it as a long-drawn-out 12-course dinner that ends with a food fight and it’s the latter that outshines the food. Oh well, at least the company is great. (***)

Photos: Sony Pictures Entertainment, TPG News/Click Photos