Posts Tagged ‘Margaret Qualley’

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.

Misty Mountains

The Nice Guys

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Director: Shane Black

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe, Kim Basinger, Matt Bomer, Angourie Rice, Margaret Qualley, Beau Knapp

Russell Crowe reunites with his L.A. Confidential co-star Kim Basinger along with Ryan Gosling in the Buddy action film The Nice Guys set in Los Angeles in 1977, amidst a sleazy world of fading porn stars, smog and gas restrictions.

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Actually, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang director Shane Black sums up The Nice Guys in the opening sequence of the film, with a young boy stealing a porn magazine from under his parents bed, only to narrowly escape a sports car driving through the house whereby he discovers the curvaceous body of the porn star Misty Mountains, bloodied and trapped in a wrecked car asking “How do you like my car?”

Sex and driving are equated multiple times in this seventies L. A. crime caper romp.

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Oscar nominee Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson, Drive) teams up with Oscar winner Russell Crowe (A Beautiful Mind, Gladiator) for a seventies buddy movie in the vein of Starsky and Hutch although slightly more X-rated and definitely more violent. If the plot appears slightly convoluted that’s because it’s meant to be and possibly points to one of the structural weaknesses of the film.

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But the on-screen bromance between Gosling and Crowe is perfect and central to what makes The Nice Guys such a humourous and quirky film. That and Gosling’s character, Holland March, a sleazy hard drinking and hapless private eye who is trying to keep his life together while raising a teenage daughter Holly superbly played by Angourie Rice. The disorganized March’s relationship with his daughter is what makes this film work as it is the central motivating factor forcing him to get his act together, acting as the emotional core of an otherwise macho buddy film.

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The action sequences are wild and spectacular including a bizarre sequence at a studio 54 inspired party in a Bellair mansion as well as the dazzling finale at the Bonaventura Hotel in downtown Los Angeles at the 1978 California car show which goes haywire when JohnnyBoy a Detroit assassin wonderfully played against type by Matt Bomer (The Normal Heart, Magic Mike) attempts to retrieve an important porn film which implicates highranking officials in the American auto industry as well as a ruthless and cold California Chief Justice Judith Kuttner played by Oscar winner Kim Basinger.

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Shane Black’s The Nice Guys is not a perfect film, but rather a homage to the late 1970’s California, a society obsessed with fame, cars and fading porn stars as well as a hedonistic desire to escape the worst of the post-Nixon Watergate scandal.

Highly recommended viewing if audiences enjoy a quirky seventies tale with off the wall action, lots of retro style and peppered with witty dialogue which will keep them guessing. It’s also a chance to see two brilliant Hollywood actors take a turn at physical comedy especially Gosling who is hilarious in the smoking on the toilet with a gun in his hand bathroom scene.

Audiences should also look out for Val Kilmer’s son Jack Kilmer as the impressionable projectionist Chet who unwillingly gets caught up in the whole investigation initiated by The Nice Guys while searching for the mysterious girl in the yellow dress named Amelia.

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