Quentin Tarantino’s oeuvre demands a fealty to a certain kind of style- one that his fans embrace and one that he’s been traditionally averse to deviate from. He’s a fan of the long monologue, where he speaks through his characters to go off on personal tangents about pop culture or society or whatever’s on his mind, followed by spurts of heightened violence, which you either relish or turn away from. He also plays with structure and the three act format, but most of his films aside from 1997’s Jackie Brown (the hidden gem in his filmography) have followed this template, more or less. But a funny thing happened in the making of Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood- Tarantino became so enamored and immersed in the world that he was creating that he forgot to follow his usual song and dance. This is a different kind of film for him, one that evokes a time and place in rich, atmospheric detail, one that affectionately renders the love he has for late 1960’s Hollywood- the music, the cars, the billboards and boulevards, the television, the celebrities, and the haunting spectre of impending doom that one aspect of that culture (the Manson family) forebode. Two original characters, magnificently inhabited by Leonardo Dicaprio and Brad Pitt, embody this glimpse of the era, as has been TV star Rick Dalton and his stunt double/right hand man/blood brother Cliff Booth. Leo’s Dalton is a frustrated, fading, narcissistic actor reduced to guest spots on other shows the of day (mostly westerns) who drinks too much and dreams of a comeback, who lives on Cielo Drive, right next door to the home of Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and Roman Polanski. Brad is Cliff, who embodies coolness to the max, not fazed by career setbacks, content to live in a trailer with his faithful dog Brandi, but we’re told of rumors that he may have killed his wife and gotten away with it. Dicaprio and Pitt are instantly believable as these old buddies, with a natural chemistry that seemingly comes easy to them- the simplicity of their command of the camera and mega movie star wattage holds our attention on them both, whether together or apart, throughout this sprawling, meandering, day in the life of 1969. The third major character in this movie is Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate, for whom Tarantino has a foot fetish and an obvious enchantment. He does an interesting thing with this figure, whose tragic fate made her most known for being first the victim of a horrific murder, and second the wife of director Roman Polanski. But Tarantino doesn’t turn her into one of his noted written characters. He doesn’t even give her much dialogue at all, compared to her screen time, which is ample. Instead, she becomes the haunted angel of the movie, a shadow who moves through her life with no idea what’s coming, an up and coming starlet with a whole future ahead of her, one that she didn’t get to live but that Tarantino revives for a new audience to discover. Sharon is brought back to life for her own accord, as Polanski is skimmed over and so is Manson, who does not weigh as a presence in this film, but for one creepy moment. This is a movie to get lost in, and there are so many details in the recreation of 1960’s Los Angeles that it will reward multiple viewings (think of it as a sister to Roma in that regard). But it also fits into Tarantino’s historical revenge fantasy trio (with Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained), and I’ll just say right now that the more you know about the Manson murders, the more you’ll get out of the uproarious and shocking ending, which serves as the slam dunk payoff to the relaxing two hour hangout we’ve just experienced. This sequence is Tarantino to its core, yet somehow more satisfying and comical than any of his usual bloody climaxes, of which this film is quite possibly his least violent ever. Even the post-climactic ending settles on a note of elegiac what-if memory, that serves as his tribute to the lost dream that was not only Sharon Tate, but the 60’s itself.