When I think back to seeing "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" in July, I remember gasping.
The gasp came when Brad Pitt's character Cliff Booth climbs on top of his employer's home to fix an antenna and takes his shirt off. That's when I gasped.
"Oh my," I said moments after gasping. A 56-year-old Brad Pitt taking his shirt off, to reveal that he is the most fit person that qualifies for AARP, was shocking to me.
The other part of the movie most shocking to me about "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" was how caring the film was.
When you think about a Tarantino film, you never mention how caring it felt. Tarantino, the master of offensive language and fight scenes that could fill an Olympic sized pool with blood, made a film that spends the majority of the film discussing legacy.
The film follows Rick Dalton, an aging Western star that struggles to get any meaningful roles. Dalton, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, is somehow simultaneously vein and vulnerable. He badly wants to be a star again, but struggles to remember lines and cut down on his drinking.
Dalton's stunt double is Booth, who we get little background on other than he has an adorable pitbull and may have murdered his wife. The pair have been together for years, with each having strong admiration for each other. There's a version of this film that could've created an animosity between Booth and Dalton, but Tarantino stays away from that possibility. A genuine level of care and friendship is felt from the first scene. They're best friends, not just work friends.
The film is set in 1969, just prior to the Manson murders in Los Angeles. A second story line established is that of Sharon Tate (played by Margot Robbie). In real life, Tate was murdered by Charles Manson's followers. In the film, we see what would've been her final days, taking in a movie that stars herself and driving around town.
"Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last May and received some criticism for Tate's portrayal. The largest criticism came from the lack of dialogue and screen time that Tate received.
Tarantino, Robbie and others have rebuked that claim of Tate not getting enough attention and I have to agree. The purpose of Tate's character is to be a vessel for what the future could hold for a budding star. At the time of her murder, Tate wasn't a well known actress. She had starred in a few films and was married to director Roman Polanski.
Tate's presence in the film, juxtaposed with Dalton and Booth's careers coming to an end, is perfect. As one star ascends, the other falls.
I'm a Tarantino fan, but my greatest criticism of his work is how similar it all feels. Sometimes it feels like you can swap out characters and trade them like sports teams and the film wouldn't change. But in "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," it feels wholly unique.
Aside from the dynamic lead performances, this film has great cameos and surprising performances. Tarantino is a steward of Hollywood history and recreates a time that is almost spitting image to what it looked like in the 60's.
"Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" is nominated for 10 Oscars, including Best Picture.