Talk to any Tarantino lover and they will tell you that ‘Once upon a time in Hollywood’ is by far one of the most confusing movies they have ever seen. And it should be so. Quentin Tarantino has merged facts and fiction to come up with a story that can confuse a lot of people. The movie has real characters rubbing shoulders with fictional characters that are a figment of Tarantino’s imagination. Unreal movies are being launched with TV-shows that existed at that time. He has taken history and turned it into his own tale. The only thing is that if you didn’t know what happened at that time in Hollywood, it can leave you with a deep sense of confusion.
So, here’s what you need to know about everything that’s going on with the movie.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: The Background
This is Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film. Mind you that we are counting the Kill Bill movies as one. ‘Once upon a time in Hollywood’ is a drama set in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It has an extraordinary cast like:
- Leonardo DiCaprio
- Brad Pitt
- Margot Robbie
- Emile Hirsch
- Timothy Olyphant
- Julia Butters
- Austin Butler
- Dakota Fanning
- Mike Moh
- Al Pacino
We were thinking about putting up the Leonardo Dicaprio jacket as a separate cast member, but chose not to do so.
The movie is Tarantino’s reflection of what was happening in Hollywood around 1970s and what he thought should have happened. According to his words, he wanted to show the world what LA was like at the time. He spend a lot of time coming up with the screenplay for this movie and that shows us how invested he was in this movie.
The movie is about Rick Dalton (Leonardo Dicaprio) and his stunt double and best friend Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Both of these names are powerhouses in their own rights and they tell us once again why that is so. Leonardo Dicaprio plays the part of an actor who was once very successful but ever since the Hollywood scene started evolving, he is becoming more and more obsolete. Everything from the Leonardo Dicaprio coat to his shoes and everything in between is tastefully selected to portray that era perfectly. We see as he takes on supporting roles and takes a backseat to the new and rising stars of that time.
The other person in this movie is Cliff Booth played by Brad Pitt. He is a WWII veteran, a former green beret and he is Dalton’s best friend as well as his stunt double. Since he works only with Dalton, his star is also diminishing alongside him. One of the many things that people specially remember about his character is the Brad Pitt jacket that really gives him the aura of reality.
Although the movie seems to be about these two guys, the water runs deep underneath and we see a host of events that shaped the Hollywood industry being discussed in this movie.
When is Once Upon a Time in Hollywood set?
The movie is set around the time Hollywood witnessed the gruesome and brutal Tate-LaBianca murders. This sets the time of the movie as 1969. This time period was also important as the old era of movie making was going out and new ways were coming in. Hollywood was experiencing more freedom and it could be seen as the movies of that time were showing more violence and sex.
What were the Tate-LaBianca murders?
These are the two murders that are focused in the movie and the history has been changed a bit to give a happy ending. The two murders happened in 1969 two consecutive nights. On the first night, Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski, Abigail Folger, and Steven Parent were murdered by the Manson Family. They entered the home and stabbed them all multiple times. When leaving, they wrote the word ‘PIG’ on the front door in Sharon Tate’s blood. The killers were under the influence of Charles Manson. Charles was the leader of the cult like group ‘The Manson Family’. He was the pseudo-religious leader of the group and would have his followers commit crimes like these and more. The next night, the Manson Family broke into another house and mercilessly butchered Leno LaBianca and his wife.
The movie plays out differently than the actual history and we see the Manson Family entering Dalton’s house instead of the Tate house. Here they encounter Cliff who thwarts their attempts while making fun of them. This was, maybe, Tarantino’s way of portraying how it should have happened or maybe how he wanted it to happen.
Bruce Lee in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
We also see Bruce Lee in the movie. This was one controversy that had a lot of people fuming at Tarantino. According to various sources and anecdotes, we know that Bruce Lee was a pretty cool guy, but here in the movie he is shown as an arrogant person who talks all types of bollocks. We see him going one on one with Cliff only to lose, and we know that Bruce Lee doesn’t lose. One of the people who really had a hard time with this part of the movie was Bruce Lee’s daughter who spoke about it in great detail.
What most people don’t realize is that the Bruce Lee scene in the movie is a flashback. Cliff is recalling it in his mind and we all know how flashbacks go. This is not the reality but Cliff’s perception of it. If Bruce Lee is portrayed as arrogant, it was in Cliff’s mind and not real.
What people have to figure out is whether they want to believe in Cliff’s version of reality or not.
In the end, all we can say is that this is definitely a movie that you need to see. Just make sure that you learn about the Tate murders and the Manson family beforehand so you can know what is happening in the movie.