Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, might not hit theaters for another two months, but it’s already gone down in Cannes Film Festival history. The red carpet of its world premiere on Tuesday arguably reached Met Gala levels of star wattage, and its accompanying screening managed to do the seemingly impossible: generate even more buzz about the film, which now looks to be the frontrunner for this year’s Palme d’Or.
Indeed, from the sound of it, Once Upon a Time just might take over from Pulp Fiction, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes 25 years ago, as Tarantino’s chef d’oeuvre. And while you won’t be able to decide for yourself until it hits theaters in July, you’ll no doubt be hearing about it right until that day. Here’s everything there is to know about the film so far.
It’s pure Hollywood.
True to the film’s title, Tarantino seems to have recruited about half of Hollywood to appear in his latest, alongside a few of his alumni. We’ll keep this as short as we can: Leonardo DiCaprio plays Rick Dalton, an aging TV star; Brad Pitt does double duty as Cliff Booth, Dalton’s stunt double and sidekick; and Margot Robbie plays the ill-fated actress Sharon Tate, who, like her husband, Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha), just so happens to be Dalton’s next-door neighbor. There’s also, of course, Charles Manson, played by Damon Herriman, and various members of the Manson family, played by a roster of actors including Al Pacino, Emile Hirsch, Maya Hawke, Bruce Dern, Kurt Russell, Margaret Qualley, Kate Berlant, and Lena Dunham, who’s already claimed the title of the cast member with the most enthusiasm. Even the late Luke Perry, who died suddenly this past March, makes a cameo, which marks his final onscreen performance. (James Marsden, on the other hand, appears to have been cut from the film’s final version.)
Still, Margot Robbie has already managed to set herself apart.
Sharon Tate, the actress who was 26 and pregnant when she and four others were murdered by Manson’s followers in the home she shared with Roman Polanski, seemed destined to be Robbie’s most controversial role yet. And yet, somehow, she’s managed to escape the wrath of Debra Tate, who’s been on something of a mission to condemn onscreen portrayals of her sister as of late, slamming Hilary Duff’s performance in The Haunting of Sharon Tate as “exploitative” and “tasteless,” and preemptively shutting down Jennifer Lawrence with a remark that even she admitted was a “horrible thing to say”: “She’s not pretty enough to play Sharon.”
Robbie, on the other hand, seems to have won her over. “She did a beautiful job,” Debra Tate told TMZ this week. “Margot captures Sharon’s sweetness very nicely.” There are plenty more rave reviews where that came from, though some wish there had been even more of Robbie; her apparently minimal dialogue has already led to some complaints.
Tarantino is doing his best to keep the plot under wraps.
”I love cinema. You love cinema. It’s the journey of discovering a story for the first time,” Tarantino wrote in an open letter on Monday, urging the film’s audiences to refrain from sharing spoilers. “The cast and crew have worked so hard to create something original, and I only ask that everyone avoids revealing anything that would prevent later audiences from experiencing the film in the same way.”
But here’s what we know anyway!
The director can’t exactly complain about us knowing what he’s already shared himself. “We follow Sharon, who is truly living the Hollywood life,” he told Esquire. “Then Rick, who is doing better than he thinks he’s doing. He has a house, some money, and he’s still working. Then Cliff represents a guy who has dedicated his entire life to this industry and has nothing to show for it. He is part of Hollywood, but he lives in Panorama City in a trailer. Make no mistake: Hollywood is his life, but he is not a citizen. These three social strata are important to the story.”
Tarantino has made it clear that he considers the film to be a “version” of what went down in Los Angeles (and on Hollywood Boulevard, where Pitt and DiCaprio where spotted filming) during the summer of 1969—some of which, like Tate’s murder, is already common knowledge. And, knowing Tarantino, things are no doubt going to get bloody—particularly when it comes to Tate’s murder. Still, other aspects of that scene may come as a surprise; as he proved in his 2009 film, Inglorious Basterds, which featured a scene in which Adolf Hitler is murdered by American soldiers, Tarantino isn’t averse to rewriting history.
In any case, Robbie and DiCaprio are all but guaranteed to share some screen time, seeing as DiCaprio’s character, Dalton, is convinced that cozying up to Tate and Polanski could land him a role in the director’s next film, thereby reinvigorating his career for the final years of Hollywood’s Golden Age. It sounds like Tate might share a few of his insecurities; thanks to Debra Tate and a few rule-breaking reviewers, we know Sharon Tate catches a rather empty matinee of her film The Wrecking Crew to witness the audience’s reactions.
Bromance abounds, onscreen and off.
Pitt’s character, Cliff, might live in a trailer with a pit bull named Randy, but he spends the bulk of his time at the home owned by his buddy Rick (DiCaprio). Their bond is so strong that Tarantino managed to fill an entire “bible” with their backstory, which he gave to both actors, who’ve been keeping the bromance alive offscreen since. They’re also the only ones to have read the film’s entire script, which Tarantino spent five years working on as a novel. They had to go to Tarantino’s house to read it, seeing as, according to Tarantino, only one (very stained) copy exists.
It’s a true ’70s throwback.
Vintage cars, phone booths, and a mustard-yellow-heavy color scheme are just some of the elements that, according to Vulture, give the film the vibe of both a cop drama and a Western. But the real star, of course, is the fashion.
When it comes to summer blockbusters, it’s in for some competition.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was a hit in Cannes, but it might not make as big of a splash when it hits theaters on July 26. Spider-Man: Far From Home, Toy Story 4, Dark Phoenix, Men in Black: International, and the Lion King are all also set for summer releases, though Tarantino’s is one of the few that doesn’t involve superheroes or Disney.
Its ending might disappoint.
“Tarantino sets it all up and stages the film’s climax quite well. But it still feels like the wrong ending for this movie, a somewhat ill-conceived attempt to reconcile Old Hollywood with the New,” writes Bilge Elbiri, who appears to have otherwise enjoyed the film. Other than that, well, just know that it’s not “particularly predictable.”