I knew some of the plot of Tarantino’s 9th film and had seen the trailers but had tried to do very little reading about it, especially reviews so I could go in untarnished and form my own opinion. I was aware of Sharon Tate and the Manson links but no more than that.
So firstly the film is 161 minutes long, almost 3 hours. I was somewhat nervous about this as my bladder rarely let me last a whole movie, and when I saw the Hateful Eight, I saw it a Leicester Square in 70mm with an interval. But amazingly I made it through without having to nip out and miss any of the film, mostly due to the final third of the movie being the most engaging in my opinion.
As always with Tarantino films, it is beautifully shot, with Hollywood looking glamorous and the sound track is absolutely amazing. (I have plans to download as soon as payday rolls around). It made me wish I could have visited Hollywood during this time (it’s not all that exciting these days).
Essentially, there are three main threads to the film. The first is following the career of movie and TV actor Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Pitt) as his star is fading and his career winding down. And the second smaller thread is following the life of Rick’s next door neighbour Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), wife of Roman Polanski. Weaved throughout are the Manson family and the film culminates with bringing these threads together in the third scene.
Its an interesting approach to mix real life characters with fictional characters, (I guess that’s where the Once Upon a Time comes from), but it creates an alternate version of history whilst paying homage to Sharon Tate. I have read that her sister felt Robbie’s portrayal was very good and found herself crying as if seeing her sister again.
I found the first two scenes dragged at times, with long lingering shots and some scenes that could have easily been trimmed down. But this is typical self-indulgent Tarantino, who is almost like an unseen character in the film and at times it does feel like he is saying to the audience ‘look how amazing I am’. There are also a number of shots that seem to focus on linger on female characters feet in a needless way, which as someone who dislikes feet in general I found disconcerting. I get you like feet Quentin but enjoy your fetish in your own time.
But the third act makes up for the slow drag of the earlier acts. It is narrated and has much more pace than the rest of the film, and is both tense and hilarious. Without giving spoilers, the majority of the violence is found in this part of the film as well as not one, but two of the best examples of Chekov’s gun I have ever seen. One of which had me absolutely howling with laughter despite the graphic violence happening on screen.
The best things about the film are Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, especially the latter who looks like he is having a ball throughout the whole film. They are both brilliant in their roles and both surprisingly good at physical comedy (although we say this in Wolf of Wall Street for DiCaprio). The chemistry between the two of them as friends is strong and natural, and despite their character flaws you find yourself rooting for them throughout.
Overall if you are a Tarantino fan you will enjoy this film, yes it’s too long and yes, it’s a bit navel gazing at the start but overall it was good fun and kept me glued to my seat for almost 3 hours.
Also there’s a cool doggo called Brandy. All films are better with a dog.