Quentin Tarantino’s latest tale of a TV-western actor and his stunt double crossing paths with the Manson Family is a wild ride through Hollywood and an industry on the cusp of change.
Set in 1969, the film follows the career decline of Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), the star of a TV western series in the 1950-’60s called Bounty Law, and his long-time stunt double and best friend Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt).
With the cancellation of Bounty Law, Dalton’s career is in freefall and he’s trying to make ends meet by playing villains in TV dramas starring the next generation of action heroes. Now working primarily as Dalton’s driver and gofer, Booth is not faring much better, sharing a dilapidated trailer with his dog out the back of a drive-in theatre.
As both men cruise the streets and backlots of Hollywood in Dalton’s coupe de ville, Booth seems more content with his situation, or at least more resigned to his dwindling career prospects, than his best friend. Dalton forged his career as a “man’s man” in the style of John Wayne, but times are changing, as is Hollywood’s taste in leading men. Dalton may prove that real men do cry (we see him well up several times) but his style of manly TV-cowboy can now only secure him work in Italian spaghetti westerns.