Once Upon A Time in Hollywood: The 1960s

Once upon a time, Hollywood had its own golden age. However, it did not last long as the rise of hippie subculture started changing the world. Well, Quentin Tarantino’s new film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood draws a very clear line of the time in-between. Set in 1969, it marks the end of Hollywood’s golden age and the beginning of the hippie subculture; a period that has brought out many classic memories and has sparked people’s nostalgia for the good, old days. 

Not only did Quentin Tarantino direct this film, but he also wrote its storyline. Some of you might already know him from his films, but I bet a lot of you also know him from the memes about him. However, it is worth mentioning that he is an excellent and special director because he is skilled in creating his own cinematic world. His films, including this new film, always have his own characteristics such as nonlinear storylines and aestheticization of violence.  In his creation of this comedy, Quentin Tarantino also expresses his love for, and pays tribute to, 1960s Hollywood film culture. 

Casts, Characters, Storyline

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From left to right: Quentin Tarantino, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Leonardo DiCaprio
(Source: SCMP)

The star-studded film with Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie obviously attracts a great deal of attention from the audience. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s roles are fictional, but they are mainly based on real, famous actors of the 1960s. On the other hand, Margot Robbie plays a historical character Sharon Tate who is killed by The Manson Family in 1969. 

The movie is centred on Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), a declining Western-style actor, and his stunt double, driver and best friend, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). 

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Source: New Yorker

As it was a time when many Hollywood actors were forced to change their career paths due to the declining demand of Western movies, in the movie we can see the depressed Rick Dalton is forced to accept playing some villain roles. Here Cliff Booth always comforts and helps Rick, and Rick does the same by helping Cliff find job opportunities. The film shows the relationship between them is not merely a friendship, but also like a family. This precious friendship between an actor and a stunt double is one of the things that Quentin Tarantino wants to bring out in the movie because nowadays the relationship between an actor and a stunt double is more like a working relationship compared to the past.

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Rick (DiCaprio) dancing in TV Show Hullabaloo
(Source: New York Times)

Sharon Tate

Sharon Tate (left) and Margot Robbie (right)
Source: Vanity Fair

Just like the real events, Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and her husband Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) live on Cielo Drive in the movie. When Sharon was eight and a half months pregnant, she and her three friends (Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski and Jay Sebring) were killed in her house. Her husband Polanski was unfortunately not in the house because he was working abroad in Europe. This tragedy was committed under the direction of Charles Manson who led the Manson Family. 

However, Quentin Tarantino “changed” this tragedy into a happy ending in the movie which is what everyone wishes for. In the movie, Rick owns a house on Cielo Drive and lives next door to Tate and Polanski. In the movie, the murder is still happening, but it happens to Rick and Cliff. Justice wins in the end, Rick and Cliff kill all the murderers.

Cinematography, Musical Soundtrack, Cultural Impact

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The Wrecking Crew (1968)
(Source: Vanya Land)

The beginning scene of the film uses black-and-white which gives a classic and retro vibe to the audience. There are many classic songs used in the movie like Treat Her Right by Roy Head & The Traits, California Dreamin by Jose Feliciano and Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show by Neil Diamond. Tarantino even puts a scene where Sharon Tate goes to the theatre to watch her own film The Wrecking Crew (1968), one of original films in which the real Sharon Tate played. I guess this is how Tarantino pays tribute to her.

The credits of the film are also full of surprises, like Rick’s Red Apple cigarettes commercial and the KHJ Batman Promotion audio clip from Boss Radio for the Batman series in 1966. The Red Apple cigarettes is one of the signature Easter eggs from the director that he inserts into many of his films. Likewise, the audio clip is one of the surprises to all the Batman fans. There are still a lot of Easter eggs in the movie which you as an audience can find yourself and hopefully you will like the film.

Bonus: Bruce Lee in the Scene

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Mike Moh as Bruce Lee
(Source: The Wrap)

P.S. There is a scene in the movie where Bruce Lee, portrayed by Mike Moh, and Cliff Booth have a “friendly” fight. The portrayal of Bruce Lee as a “cocky” actor and his loss in the second round has generated backlash. However, I am sure that Tarantino is not trying to smudge Bruce Lee’s reputation as he is a fan of Bruce Lee. Moreover, this is Tarantino’s comedy film which means he is not going to do something that everyone expects.

Written by Goh Jia Hui

Cover photo credits: Jose Feliciano