Total Film

ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD: A NOVEL

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BOOK

T| ORION rust Quentin Tarantino. Finally bringing his flair and wit to a novel, QT has opted not to pen an original but to revisit his 2019 film, fleshing out the lives of faded star Rick Dalton and his stunt double Cliff Booth in 1969 Hollywood.

This is Tarantino’s loving homage to novelisati­ons, that maligned subgenre of pulp fiction where tie-ins often diverge from their big-screen cousins. And here, Tarantino delights in making his book the same, but different. Those expecting a carbon copy will be particular­ly blindsided that the film’s iconic climax is confined to a one-page recap.

Instead, Tarantino favours material he had to excise from the film. There’s a bit more from Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate; a lot more of Charles Manson. Cliff gets so much backstory you wonder if QT might one day shoot a prequel about his WW2 exploits. But the main beneficiar­ies are Rick and child co-star Trudi Frazer, whose sparring provides the story’s unexpected­ly emotional spine.

It’s fun, if wildly uneven, because Tarantino can’t resist showing off. The occasional experiment sticks, like the chapters written from the perspectiv­e of the characters in Rick’s pilot, Lancer. Yet too often the prose devolves into nerdy, rambling digression­s into the deepest corners of Tarantino’s cinephilia. Even before Quentin inserts his own stepfather as a character, it’s the most indulgent thing he’s ever done, and that’s saying something. Simon Kinnear

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