I’m not going to tell you a great deal about Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film. There are too many delicious surprises better discovered on your own. Suffice it to say that it’s the story of a never-quite-A-List television actor (Leonardo DiCaprio) given to weeping over his fading career, and his friend/stuntman (Brad Pitt, never better). Great chemistry. It takes place during the last days of Hollywood’s Golden Era, at about the time of the Sharon Tate murders. Margot Robbie simply nails the role of the doomed actress.

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood movie still 2

Is this the director’s best film? Maybe. But it’s an unnecessary question. What it is is the film he’s been moving toward ever since he started in the film industry, which, for the uninitiated, was as a clerk in a video store. 

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood movie still 3

This is a rich, layered, funny and suspenseful ode to the writer/director’s genuine love of cinema. His signature violence is in evidence, to be sure, though most are calling this his least violent effort. But — how to say this? — it’s never been more satisfying. Multiple storylines, a terrific soundtrack and the largest star-studded cast outside of a Marvel movie (Al Pacino, Bruce Dern, Dakota Fanning; and 10-year-old Julia Butters is one to watch) make this thrill ride such a great time at the movies that you’ll forget its 2:41 runtime. And though it may seem disjointed at times, it all comes together in the explosive final scene. Not to be missed. (161 min)