Director: Quentin Tarantino
This seems to have gathered quite a buzz around it, which I find strange. I feel that all these people drawn to the irresistible bromance pairing of Leo and Brad are going to be ever-so-slightly disappointed. In fact there were a few walkouts in Cineworld tonight.
Just be warned that this is a meandering, languid film with little sense of forward momentum for the majority of its two-and-a-half hour running time. At times it (seriously) resembles a game of Grand Theft Auto. (Is there a GTA 1969 edition?) Brad driving around Los Angeles on a dreamy sunny afternoon, listening to cool music, carrying out odd jobs and picking up hippy chick hitchhikers.
I’d also compare the overall feel to Robert Altman’s Shortcuts or PT Anderson’s Inherent Vice. Good films, but both the kinds of films where you can doze off in the middle for half an hour and not miss much. There’s very little of Tarantino’s trademark snappy dialogue and pop philosophising.
I won’t spoil the plot, but it’s no secret that it’s set against the shadow of the Manson murders. A firm awareness of that grisly moment in history will be most helpful when you go to see this. But Tarantino’s mood is wistful rather than sinister – to him, the Manson watershed killed the sixties but also birthed the seventies. Every cloud, and all that.
Is it a great film? I’m not sure yet. It certainly doesn’t have the instant appeal and tension of other Tarantino films like The Hateful Eight or Pulp Fiction. But it has a dreamy vibe that really resonates. You feel as if you want to visit that place again, it brings the era to life so vividly.
The standout performance is definitely Di Caprio. His character is an old school actor who is on the verge of being washed up, who at first seems petulant and unsympathetic, but who gradually reveals an endearing soft side and an understated redemptive arc. Brad gets the laughs though.
And as it’s Tarantino, the jukebox soundtrack is reliably brilliant. It’s a funky brew of ever-so-slightly-obscure late sixties pop. The key gems are Simon and Garfunkel’s Mrs Robinson (not so obscure, that one) and The Stones’ Out Of Time. Both lend an air of euphoria to match the sun-drenched atmosphere. We also get Macarthur Park and Deep Purple, so it’s all good.
Might appeal to people who enjoyed:
Well, Tarantino is a micro-genre of his own, isn’t he? So if you’ve seen the rest of his films you’ll watch this one as well. I mentioned Paul Thomas Anderson above, and that’s a good comparison I think. So would Jim Jarmusch or Gus Van Sant. It’s definitely got a far more arty, understated feel than other Tarantino films. Less swearing and shouting as well. More drifting and mumbling.