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CONTRIBUTED Photo courtesy SONY PICTURES RELEASINGBrad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, “Once Upon a Tiime ... in Hollywood.” CONTRIBUTED Photo courtesy SONY PICTURES RELEASINGBrad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, “Once Upon a Tiime ... in Hollywood.”

Review: ‘Once’ again

Friday, August 9, 2019 by Paul Willistein pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

You pretty much know what you’re going to get with a film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino.

There’s going to be knucklehead characters just on this side, or that side, of the law.

There’s going to be pop culture-infused quippy dialogue and visuals.

And there’s going to be an explosion, or explosions, of violence.

You get all this and more in Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in ... Hollywood.”

The emphasis in the film’s title is “Once Upon a Time.” That’s important because, while the film has historic occurences and characters with names of real people, it’s far from a straight-forward depiction of Hollywood circa 1969, described as the last days of Hollywood’s motion picture studio golden days.

Tarantino, never one to let facts get in the way of his truth as a film-maker, has created one of Summer 2019’s best times at the movie theater.

“Once Upon a Time” is bravura film-making that recalls the heyday of feature movies of the 1970s in style (always surprising editing by longtime Tarantino editor Fred Raskin), subject matter (Tarantino loves behind-the-scenes scenarios) and cinematography (Director of Photography Robert Richardson, recipient of cinematography Oscars for “Hugo,” Oscars, 2011; “The Aviator” 2004; “JFK,” 1991).

Pinpointing 1969 as the year when the studio system collapsed has validity. It was the year of “Easy Rider” (1969), the outre opus directed by Dennis Hopper and starring himself, Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson in a film that paved the way for Hollywood’s young guns, the 1970s’ “New Hollywood” of directors George Lucas (“America Graffiti,” 1973), Steven Spielberg (“Jaws,” 1975), Martin Scorsese (“Mean Streets,” 1973) and Francis Ford Coppola (“The Godfather,” 1972).

Tarantino sets “Once Upon a Time” on a Hollywood studio backlot where Rick Dalton (terrific Leonardo DiCaprio, channeling his best laconic Jack Nicholson drawl and Clint Eastwood economy of acting style) stars in a western being filmed on a western town movie set. Dalton’s assisted by his stunt double, Cliff Booth (never-better Brad Pitt, portraying a slacker just dumb enough to be smart).

“Once Upon a Time” also takes place in the Hollywood Hills, along Sunset Strip, in Malibu and significantly at the Spahn Movie Ranch, where western movies were made, but now is the home of squatters. None other than Charlie Manson and his “family” have settled in.

The screenplay sets up a sequence of events leading inevitably to a climax at the home of Rick Dalton, whereby history gets Tarantinoized, rewritten as Tarantino did, especially with “Inglourious Basterds“ (2009) and “Django Unchained” (2012), the latter for which he received an original screenplay Oscar, which he also received for his breakout hit, “Pulp Fiction” (1994).

Tarantino uses flashback, dream sequences, a film within a film, a fictional television show (“Bounty Law”), an actual movie, “The Wrecking Crew” (1969), radio commercials, hit songs from the era, and imagined happenstances to create his cinematic sleight-of-lens. It’s a fascinating ride, literally in a vintage MG-TD and Cadillac, coursing the L.A. byways and highways. Tarantino’s gift for bristling dialogue is in full force.

The ensemble cast is terrific: Margo Robbie as Sharon Tate, the Hollywood starlet; Al Pacino as Marvin Schwarzs, a movie agent; Emile Hirsch as Jay Sebring, Tate’s former boyfriend; Kurt Russell as Randy, a stunt coordinator, who in a voice-over superfluously narrates the final scenes; Margaret Qualley as Pussycat, a Manson Family follower; Dakota Fanning as Squeaky Fromme, another Manson Family member; Bruce Dern as George Spahn, owner of the Spahn Movie Ranch; Mike Moh as Bruce Lee; Damian Lewis as Steve McQueen; Rafal Zawierucha as film director Roman Polanski; Damon Herriman as Charles Manson; Austin Butler as Tex Watson, a Manson Family member; Rachel Redleaf as Mama Cass; Rebecca Rittenhouse as Michelle Phillips; Julia Butters as Trudi, a child actress, and Luke Perry in what’s believed to be his last acting role.

“Once Upon a Time ... In Hollywood” may be one of the few Tarantino films with a happy ending. That doesn’t mean all’s well that ends well. It just ends, well, differently. No spoiler alerts here, Quentin.

It you’re a fan of Quentin Tarantino, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt. this film’s for you. It’s the ultimate Hollywood insider movie.

“Once Upon a Time ... In Hollywood,” MPAA Rated R (Restricted Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. Contains some adult material. Parents are urged to learn more about the film before taking their young children with them.) for language throughout, some strong graphic violence, drug use, and sexual references; Genre: Comedy, Drama; Run Time: 2 hrs., 41 mins. Distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing.

Credit Readers Anonymous: In the “Once Upon a Time ... In Hollywood” end credits, it states: Tim Roth (Cut). His part was cut in the final edit.

Box Office, Aug. 2-4: Dwayne Johnson, a Freedom High School, Bethlehem Area School District, Pennsylvania, graduate, as Hobbs, teamed with Jason Statham as Shaw, became king of the weekend box office rock with “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” opening at No. 1, with $60.8 million, toppling “The Lion King” from its two-week No. 1 perch, dropping one place with a still solid $38.2 million, $430.8 million, three weeks, as “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood” dropped one place, with a respectable $20 million, $78.8 million, two weeks. 4. “Spider-Man: Far From Home” again dropped one place, $7.7 million, $360.3 million, five weeks. 5. “Toy Story 4” again dropped one place, $7.1 million, $410 million, seven weeks. 6. “Yesterday” stayed in place, $2.4 million, $67.9 million, six weeks. 7. “The Farewell” moved up three places, $2.4 million, $6.8 million, four weeks. 8. “Crawl” dropped three places, $2.1 million, $36 million, four weeks. 9. “Aladdin” dropped two places, $2 million, $350.3 million, 11 weeks. 10. “Annabelle Comes Home” again dropped one place, $875,000, $71.5 million, six weeks.

Unreel, Aug. 9:

“Dora and the Lost City of Gold,” PG: James Bobin directs: Isabela Moner, Q’orianka Kilcher, Benicio Del Toro and Eva Longoria in the Adventure movie. Dora, the teenage explorer, and her friends try to save Dora’s parents and solve the mystery of a lost city of gold.

“The Art of Racing in the Rain,” PG: Simon Curtis directs Amanda Seyfried, Milo Ventimiglia, Martin Donovan and the voice of Kevin Costner in the Comedy Drama. A Formula One race car driver, a golden retriever named Enzo and Allentown’s sweetheart. What’s not to like?

“After the Wedding,” PG-13: Bart Freundlich directs Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore, Billy Crudup and Will Chase in the Drama. The manager of an orphanage meets her benefactor.

“Brian Banks,” PG-13: Tom Shadyac directs Aldis Hodge, Greg Kinnear, Sherri Shepherd and Melanie Liburd in the Biography Drama. A football player’s dream to play in the NFL is stopped when he ends up in prison.

“Corporate Animals,” R: Patrick Brice directs Demi Moore, Ed Helms, Jessica Williams and Karan Soni in the Horror film. A corporate CEO takes her employees on a team-building trip to New Mexico.