Directed and written by Damien Chazelle (La La Land; Whiplash; First Man) and starring Brad Pitt (Mr & Mrs Smith; Moneyball; Once Upon a Time in Hollywood; Bullet Train), Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street; I, Tonya; Goodbye Christopher Robin), Diego Calva (I Promise You Anarchy; Unstoppable (tv series); The Inmate (tv series)), Jovan Adepo (Fences; The Leftovers; Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan (tv series)), Tobey Maguire (Spider-Man; Pleasantville; Pawn Sacrifice; The Great Gatsby), Jean Smart (Garden State; The Accountant; 24 (tv series); Mare of Easttown (tv series)) and Olivia Wilde (Tron: Legacy; The Lazarus Effect; Cowboys and Aliens; Her).
Comedy drama; 189 mins; 16+
Set in 1926 in Hollywood, the film follows (primarily) four characters over a number of years in the film industry, from the end of the silent era to the beginning of "talkies".
At just over 3 hours long, this is not a standard, run-of-the-mill 90-minute drama. It may not be for everyone, but it it undoubtedly very well made. It portrays how film production companies had actors tied to contracts and were churning out film after film, with quality being sacrificed over quantity.
It starts off with a wild scene at an extravagant party of excess and debauchery, illustrating the extremes to which some people led their private lives. This is where aspiring / wannabee actress Nellie LaRoy (Margot Robbie) and Manny Torres (Diego Calva) who has to drive home film star Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt) who has passed out, long after having had a massive row with his soon-to-be ex-wife #4. Conrad takes a shine to Manny and offers him a job, whereupon Manny grabs the opportunity with both hands, working his way up the ladder and through the business.
At the same party, Nellie LaRoy gets noticed and has a job the following day. After almost no sleep, and living in squalid conditions, she eventually "nails it" but not until after the audience sees the chaos on the film set, out in the Californian desert. This starts her ascent...
Someone else at the party, Sidney Palmer (Jovan Adepo), is a musician, and the film also charts his journey through the business. Elinor St. John (Jean Smart) and other characters are introduced at this party and provide the glue for what happens through the film.
However, not everything is going that well, and Jack Conrad (in particular) - the higher you climb, the further you fall - struggles when "talkies" start to take over. At the same time, there is one scene inside a studio, where Nellie LaRoy is the only actor on set, yet the drama unfolds involving the director, sound engineer and various other cast members, all portraying how complex the business is of a production unit filming a scene.
James McKay (Tobey Maguire) enters the scene as a gangster later on; although some of the scenes in which he is involved may not be for the squeamish, his contribution shows another side to Hollywood back then.
Apart from showing the outrageous excess and decadence of early Hollywood, it does have a strong storyline and presents a fascinating insight into the characters and the industry at that time.
Well worth the watch and some scenes are hilarious, but not for the squeamish.
Currently being screened at Kinepolis in Luxembourg