Once Upon A Time...In Hollywood

Aging TV actor Rick Dalton (movie actor Leonardo DiCaprio) suspects that his career as he knew it might be over, and grapples with the vanity and insecurity that comes with such an uncertain future. He makes his living pretending to be a cowboy, in contrast with his best bud and stunt double/driver, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt, embracing his recent grizzle), who actually embodies the no-nonsense, two-fisted demeanor of a good old-fashioned horseman. Together, they navigate the show business landscape of 1969 in this nostalgic journey through the boulevards, backlots, and bars of La La Land.

120holly.boxFor the purposes of this narrative, the fictitious Rick is also the next- door neighbor of real-life director Roman Polanski and his wife, actress Sharon Tate (played by Margot Robbie), who, along with her four guests, was murdered in her home by members of The Manson Family in August of that year. Her tale unfolds in a curious parallel to the main plot rather than intertwining with it in any significant way, leading us to wonder what these well-researched facts add up to and where they're all heading. The answer will likely come as a bit of a jolt.


Herculean efforts have been invested by all involved to imbue this passion project with a striking sense of authenticity, with accuracy strived for at every turn... up to a certain point. And while I share writer/ director Quentin Tarantino's fascination with this particular era in Hollywood entertainment, this may well be his most self-indulgent outing to date, running on a bit too long as a result. Then again, this is reportedly his penultimate movie—only one more to go if his ten-and-then- retirement claim is to be believed—so perhaps we should forgive him for wanting to make the ride last.


Unlike The Hateful Eight, Tarantino's previous movie which was famously shot in 65mm by frequent collaborator Robert Richardson to preserve its sweeping, unspoiled vistas, Once Upon a Time was captured primarily on 35mm film, some 16mm, and even a little Super 8 to suit the various needs of the story. This is Mr. T's first-ever Ultra HD Blu-ray disc release, and the exceptionally crisp and colorful 2.39:1 image showcases the painstaking production design and set decoration. Punchy hues take us back to this groovy heyday, while an occasional yellowish cast evokes fading photos and distant memories. High dynamic range brings a pleasing nuance to the proceedings, breathing life into the shadowy interiors and lending intensity to the headlights piercing the L.A. night.


From the faint vinyl crackle adorning the opening seconds to the sizzle at the tip of a fresh-lit Red Apple cigarette, wonderful subtlety is evident in the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1-channel soundtrack. Bass activity is generous, notably in the throaty car engines. Cues such as off- camera voices are placed discretely in the various speakers to interesting effect, while a restaurant scene early on amps up crowd noise in the surrounds. Dialogue is always perfectly clear. Not surprisingly at this point in the Tarantino canon, there's an outstanding list of pop tunes in rotation that get mixed big across the soundfield, with a sampling of vintage radio spots woven in from time to time as well.


A plentiful 25 minutes of deleted scenes on the 4K platter largely plumb more deeply into the ups and downs of Rick's vocation. Along with the usual scene selections, the menu provides direct access to that amazing collection of songs peppered throughout the movie. These same features carry over to the regular HD Blu-ray, where there's five solid video vignettes, some of which showcase the enigmatic auteur on camera. A Movies Anywhere code is included for a 4K digital copy with extras as well.

Ultimately, as the film's title implies, Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood is a fable, albeit one that might provoke ire in purists of Tinseltown lore.

STUDIO: Sony, 2019
AUDIO FORMAT: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
LENGTH: 161 mins.
DIRECTOR: Quentin Tarantino
STARRING: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Margaret Qualley, Timothy Olyphant