So I’m changing Music Monday to Media Monday

I finally saw DJANGO: UNCHAINED last week, and now I have a lot to say about it. I know, I know, I’m a bit behind. But there are a lot of movies out there I want to see, and it’s taking me a while to get through them all.

Django Unchained Film Review Critic Jamie Foxx Christophe Waltz

My initial reaction

Halfway through I was glancing at my watch. How long can they drag this out? Maybe it’s my need to be productive, but at several points during the film I found myself thinking, “Did they really need to show this again?” Or, “That scene could have been significantly shorter.” My friend and I were the only ones in the theater, and at some points she pulled out her cell and started browsing Facebook.

As the film reached what should have been the climax, I glanced at my watch, only to have my eyeballs almost fall out of my head, 45 minutes left!?
Watching DJANGO was a little like gearing up for an all-nighter. You have to pace yourself.

Unrealistic Expectations

To be fair, I did go in with unrealistic expectations. I adored Tarantino’s INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, and a friend of mine came back from DJANGO touting it as “Quite possibly Tarantino’s BEST.” Now I wish I’d gone to see ZERO DARK THIRTY or LIFE OF PI instead.

Gratuitous Violence

Alright, so he’s playing off spaghetti westerns, the genre of Eurowesterns in the 60s and 70s that earned the reputation of being some of the most violent films ever made up to that point, I get it. But if this is spoof film, why does it seem to take itself so seriously at some points? It’s as if Mel Brooks suddenly decided to tackle the violence of slavery in the American South. I have to agree with Spike Lee on this one (I can’t believe I just said that) it’s disgusting how Tarantino caricatures slavery throughout his film.

leo dicaprio Django unchained film review critic

Are you serious?

Besides being unnecessarily lengthy, Django’s main issue was its inability to choose between a spoof genre and a serious one. If you want to make a statement about the violence of slavery, make a statement. Do your research. Did Mandingo fighting actually happen? It’s possible, likely even, but don’t base your “research” on some film you watched called MANDINGO.

If you wanted me to feel sick to my stomach by the way M. Candie treated his mandingo slaves, congratulations, you succeeded. But don’t then expect laughter from me when wounds spew blood geysers every time a person is shot, like in one scene when Django’s human shield is shot dozens of times, exploding like a punctured water bed on each hit. Can you say overkill? (See what I did there).

That Having Been Said

I absolutely fell in love with all of the supporting characters in this film. Christopher’s Waltz’s Dr. King Schultz, Leo’s Calvin Candie, Samuel L. Jackson as Stephen (!). Oh man, Stephen. Also, can we talk about Jonah Hill’s random cameo? So much win.

Throughout the movie, I found myself laughing out loud and wondering what Tarantino would throw at us next. Although in the end, I couldn’t help but return to the director’s caricature of slavery. In one scene, female slaves stroll idly on the plantation run by the Brittle Brothers as if attending a garden party, and the master of the house speaks sweetly to one of his slave girls. Later, we see Candie’s slaves dressed in French maid outfits and often treated by Candie as his equals. He even takes back talk (and advice) from his head slave, Stephen. And yet there are some scenes so violently graphic that the only way to justify them is as an attempt at making a social statement about slavery.

So I’m confused. Is Tarantino trying to show the harsh realities of slavery or not? Or is he simply creating an eccentric caricature of a man, using slavery as an avenue for this man’s madness? You be the judge.

If I could write a letter to Tarantino

It would go something like this:

Dear Quentin,

On every normal level, your recent film, DJANGO: UNCHAINED, delivered. There was action, there was plot, there were likable characters (can we talk about Christopher Waltz and his incredible performance!? Not to mention Samuel L. Jackson seriously cracked me up), but might I suggest next time that you avoid using the deplorable institution that was slavery as an avenue for your spoof?

If you were, in fact, trying to make a statement à la Jonathan Swift, why the gentle treatment of the slaves throughout the film (with the obvious exception of the Mandingo fighters and Django’s wife)? Not to mention Dr. Schultz’s opposition to slavery.

Though you may find slavery to be a fascinating subject, there is a reason why few filmmakers have tackled the issue. Maybe if you had a little more class, you could figure that out. But then, I guess your classlessness is really why we love you so much.

Wishing you the best,