Quentin Tarantino pays homage to the film industry with “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”. The 2019 film is now celebrating its free TV premiere.

Quentin Tarantino’s film “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” has everything that makes a film fan’s heart beat faster. It is breathtakingly beautifully recorded, unleashes the concentrated talent of Leonardo DiCaprio (47) and Brad Pitt (58) for the first time and impresses with many qualities that have always distinguished the filmmaker – good dialogue and great music are just two of them. And yet: not everyone liked Tarantino’s film, which premiered on May 30 (ZDF, 10:15 p.m.) on free TV, unconditionally – even the director himself was aware of that.

Two old Hollywood irons – that’s what it’s all about

Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) doesn’t have it easy. He’s a fossil of the TV landscape, the one-time hero of a half-baked Western series called Bounty Law. But the clocks in Hollywood don’t stand still, especially not in the 1960s. “It’s official bro, I’m out now,” Rick wails, hugging his best friend Cliff Booth (Pitt) sobbing. But what should he say first? He is said fossil’s stuntman and of advanced age. Booth hasn’t been hired for a long time, at least since he beat Bruce Lee (Mike Moh, 38) on the set. And so he keeps his head above water as a girl for everything in the service of his buddy.

Out of desperation and on the advice of his agent (Al Pacino, 82), Dalton is finally willing to accept a part in the hated genre of spaghetti westerns. While he is primarily at odds with himself and his alcohol addiction, in his free time away from the dream factory, Booth becomes aware of a strange hippie cult that seems to be up to something under the leadership of a long-haired man named Charlie. Unaffected by all of this, a certain Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie, 31) enjoys her glamorous life alongside directorial prodigy Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha, 35) – and the bright future that no doubt lies ahead of her becomes…

Tarantino lets off steam

Tarantino must have felt like a kid in a candy store. With “Once Upon” he finally made a film about his greatest passion – filmmaking. The vita of his main protagonist (and his doppelganger) enabled Tarantino to help himself to every conceivable film candy. And so DiCaprio sizzles “Nazi sauerkraut” with a flamethrower, commits a shotgun assassination in a troubled thriller series or drinks, grunts and rages as an exaggerated saloon villain in the spaghetti western mentioned at the beginning. But to stick with the candy store analogy, sometimes too much choice is crippling.

In the end, did Tarantino get scared of the endless possibilities that “Once Upon” offered him? In the end he somehow limits himself to the things that he has already proven to be perfect in previous films: cowboys from “Django Unchained”, gangsters from “Pulp Fiction”, burning “Krauts” from “Inglourious Basterds”. His ninth film not only seems like a homage to the film business per se, but also like a homage to himself. It also fits that none of the female characters can avoid sticking their bare feet into the camera and listening to the car radio on the side more classics are played than at the jungle camp.

Today’s Who’s Who plays yesterday’s Who’s Who

Tarantino couldn’t complain about a lack of actors either. And that in two respects: Stars of today, such as Damian Lewis, Margot Robbie, Mike Moh or James Marsden embody stars of yesteryear, the heroes of Tarantino’s youth. Despite its running time of almost three hours, the film is so packed or, if you want to put it negatively, so overloaded with references that none of the real characters could be given much screen presence. Neither Steve McQueen (Lewis), nor Bruce Lee (Moh), not even Sharon Tate (Robbie).

Rather, your storyline comes across as a common thread in the background. Equal to a continuous, ominous minor tone, in stark contrast to what is shown. Her life up until that fateful night on August 9, 1969 is enacted by Tarantino with an unimaginable amount of icing. Tate throws motley girls’ nights out, goes shopping, marvels at himself at the cinema with infantile joy in one touching (and Robbie’s best) scene. Tarantino flirts with the foreknowledge that a large part of the cinema audience probably has: that exactly six months after the beginning of the film plot, Sharon Tate will die heavily pregnant and in a bestial way by the “Manson Family”.

For spoiler reasons, we won’t reveal how the said night of horror unfolds in “Once Upon”. Just this much: Tarantino uses a trick that he has already used in another of his films. And in an interview with the news agency spot on news, he showed himself that not every viewer would like him. “When you’re making a movie like this with an ending like that, you have to realize that not everyone will like the ending. It’s a risk, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done,” Tarantino said while promoting the film Movie 2019 in Berlin.

A clear bias per fiction

The main focus is clearly on the fictional part of the story, i.e. the (anti-)hero’s journey of Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth. Not only Tarantino disciples should be able to marvel at the two Hollywood heavyweights DiCaprio and Pitt together and in the best buddy comedy manner on the big screen. But of course it helps that they are allowed to smack the typical Tarantino dialogues over and over again and live through weird situations.

Both are given the opportunity to captivate the audience in different ways. DiCaprio as the self-doubter, the crybaby, the charming dork who complains about the heat of a flamethrower. Pitt as the actually even sadder figure, who has a lot on the box, but lives in the caravan, does housekeeping work – and yet shows an never-doubted self-confidence. He’s a man who doesn’t even take it amiss that he allegedly killed his own wife. The reward for his performance came in 2020, when Pitt received the Oscar for “Best Supporting Actor” – his first acting Oscar ever.


With “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”, Tarantino opens countless construction sites, most of which, but not all, are closed in just under three hours. He delivers a hymn to the film industry, honors its former greats and mixes reality with fiction, which literally live next to each other on Benedict Canyon, at the end of Cielo Drive.