Posts Tagged ‘Al Pacino’

Acting as Artifice

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Cast: Leonardo di Caprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Bruce Dern, Dakota Fanning, Maya Hawke, Timothy Olyphant, Austin Butler, Damian Lewis, Al Pacino, Kurt Russell, Margaret Qualley

Oscar winner for Best Original Screenplay for Pulp Fiction and Django Unchained, writer and director Quentin Tarantino returns to the big screen with his 9th feature film the brilliantly titled Once Upon a Time in Hollywood starring Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant) and Brad Pitt as buddies actor Rick Dalton and his stunt double Cliff Booth in a fictional tale set in Los Angeles in 1969.

1969 was the year that the real life film director Roman Polanski’s pregnant wife Sharon Tate was brutally murdered by the followers of the Charles Manson cult which shocked the American film industry to its rotten core.

Firstly two disclaimers: this is an extremely long film and secondly it’s really only aimed at serious movie buffs and serves as Tarantino’s ode to the end of Hollywood’s Golden Age before the film making industry got taken over by corporations, sequels, digitization and streaming.

Margot Robbie as actress Sharon Tate

Tarantino artfully pays homage to the act of buying a ticket and going to the cinema in a rather poignant scene when the young actress Sharon Tate superbly played by Oscar nominee Margot Robbie (I, Tonya) actually pays to watch a film she is starring in at a Westwood cinema.

The rest of this marvelously meandering film belongs to the two major stars, DiCaprio who is superb as the washed up TV actor Rick Dalton who is desperately trying to make a Big Screen comeback but lands up starring in a string of Spaghetti Westerns in Rome.

Oscar nominee Brad Pitt (12 Monkeys) is phenomenal as the stunt double past his prime Cliff Booth in one of his best onscreen performances yet especially the gorgeous scene when he takes his shirt off on the roof of Dalton’s Hollywood Hills mansion in the scorching Californian sun to fix the TV aerial.

Booth also inadvertently stumbles across the hippie cult followers of Charles Manson in an abandoned studio lot in Chatsworth, California featuring some great cameos by Dakota Fanning (Ocean’s 8, War of the Worlds) as Squeaky Fromme , Oscar nominee Bruce Dern (Nebraska) as George Spahn and Margaret Qualley (The Nice Guys) as the seductive hippie hitchhiker Pussycat.

Tarantino expertly captures the zeitgeist of Los Angeles in 1969 at the peak of the counter-culture movement with lurid production design by Barbara Ling and costumes by Oscar nominated costume designer Arianne Phillips (Walk the Line, A Single Man, Nocturnal Animals, W. E.).

With some expertly placed cameos including Oscar winner Al Pacino (Scent of a Woman) as hot shot producer Marvin Schwarz and Damian Lewis as real life star Steve McQueen.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is slowing moving in the first two acts of the film, while the third act is phenomenal especially the hippie flame throwing sequence.

Tarantino could have quickened the film’s pace in the beginning to actively propel the narrative forward but he is a notorious auteur and not interested in packaging films to please audience expectations.

Unbelievably, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood did get a standing ovation at its glittering film premiere at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival so Tarantino did something right.

This film gets a rating of 8 out of 10 and accurately portrays acting as artifice.

This is not Tarantino’s best work but written and directed in the vein of his crime thriller Jackie Brown, Once Upon a Time In Hollywood is strictly recommended for Tarantino fans and those that enjoyed Pulp Fiction, Django Unchanged and Inglourious Basterds.

A Rock Star’s Redemption

Danny Collins

danny_collins

Director: Dan Fogelman

Cast: Al Pacino, Annette Bening, Christopher Plummer, Jennifer Garner, Christopher Plummer, Bobby Cannavale, Josh Peck

Crazy, Stupid, Love director Dan Fogelman creates a more bittersweet comedy with Oscar winner Al Pacino (A Scent of a Woman) in the lead as the irascible and flamboyant ageing rock star Danny Collins in a film of the same name.

Featuring a great supporting cast including Oscar winner Christopher Plummer (Beginners) as Danny’s manager Frank Grubman and Annette Bening (Being Julia, Bugsy) as Mary Ann Sinclair, Danny Collins is by no means a superb film, but a character driven story about how one man starts to take responsibility for the fame and the recklessness of his life as he enters his semi-retirement years.

Plummer’s charcter acts as a sort of conscious for Danny Collins, who at a ripe old age is still snorting cocaine and drinking too much, attempting to marry woman half his age, while his musical career flat lines as he basically just pelts out the same songs that made him famous in the early 1970’s.

As Danny Collins says “I haven’t written an original song in thirty years”. This is preceded by a wonderful scene in Los Angeles outside the legendary Hollywood hotel Chateau Marmont where Danny stops his Mercedes sports car and stares at a Billboard above Capitol Records of his latest album – Danny Collins, the Greatest Hits volume 3.

So where do ageing rock stars go to retire and reconnect with their estranged children? New Jersey of course! In suburban New Jersey Danny checks into the Wood Lake Hilton run by the amiable yet strict divorcee Mary Ann, wonderfully played against type by Bening. Written by Fogelman too, he saves the best dialogue for Pacino and Bening and its these scenes mainly in the hotel bar that work the most in Danny Collins.

Soon the story takes a twist when Danny Collins tries to reconnect with his grown son Tom, played by Bobby Cannavale, who is perfectly cast as Pacino’s son, although personally I would have liked to see them in a gangster film together. Cannavale shot to fame after winning a Prime-Time Emmy Award for his role as the violent gangster Gyp Rosetti in the excellent HBO series Boardwalk Empire and since then has been cast in numerous films including Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, Jon Favreau’s Chef and most recently the remake of Annie.

Once again Fogelman saves the best dialogue for the bitter-sweet bonding scenes between estranged son and rock star father. Jennifer Garner (Dallas Buyers Club) has a minor supporting role as Tom’s sensible and pregnant wife Samantha Donnelly.

At times Danny Collins felt unevenly written and at times the dialogue worked beautifully, but the film would never have been successful without the charisma of Al Pacino in the lead role.

Yet despite all this talent, Danny Collins is a minor yet amiable film about characters reconnecting and rockstars coming back down to earth with a bang. More of the plot could have been embellished but one got the sense that Fogelman had run out of ideas by the time the script had run its course.

Nevertheless Danny Collins is recommended viewing but could be saved for DVD and for those that enjoyed Last Vegas. Naturally the iconic Pacino (Scarface, The Godfather, Heat and Carlito’s Way) is fantastic but one gets the sense that even such an accomplished actor needs more to work with to make a film credible.

 

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