Once Upon A Time In Hollywood review: A near-classic buddy trip
Even if you are unfamiliar with late-60s Tinseltown, it is hard not to fall head over heels with the heady, almost exuberant, nostalgia trip that is Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.
Melding fact with fiction, the film sees acclaimed director Quentin Tarantino fully indulge in his love for cinema and largely depart from his usual shtick of blood and ultra-violence.
Instead, the film basks in the warm California sun and glowing neon signs of Los Angeles in 1969 as it follows washed-up television actor Rick Dalton - played by Leonardo DiCaprio in yet another Oscar-worthy role - and his stunt double Cliff Booth, played by Brad Pitt.
Dalton is the former leading man of a fictional 1950s Western television series, but his star has faded and he struggles with alcoholism and insecurity, which is mined for the dark humour typical of most Tarantino films.
Confronting hippie culture and a changing film industry, Dalton and Booth cross paths with real-life '60s figures, including American actress Sharon Tate, lovingly played by Margot Robbie but severely under-used, and a certain Beatles-loving cult.
Aided by an easy on-screen chemistry between DiCaprio and Pitt, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is essentially a buddy movie about two long-time friends who hang out a lot and reminisce about the past while trying to find their place in the world.
Also palpable is Tarantino's joy as he revels in every cultural reference, Easter egg and celebrity cameo that he can cram into the 162-minute run-time.
And as with every Tarantino flick, these minute, almost throwaway details count towards an unexpected, ludicrous climax that is at once shocking and laugh-out-loud funny.
But this pay-off feels delayed as the film is allowed to meander a bit too much for its own good.
There has also been criticism about the cringe-inducing portrayal of Bruce Lee, and that is indicative of the film's weakness.
Its rose-tinted version of Hollywood is perhaps too white-washed, and the ending to Tarantino's fairy tale is frustratingly ambiguous.