Let’s Talk About…Django Unchained
Django Unchained (2012/In Theaters)
Sarah: Kim! OK so um Django. We saw it. We sure did. I’m not so sure about this one. I am a fan of Tarantino and went in with pretty high expectations. But for me, Tarantino’s usual skillful balance of brutality and levity was off on this one. Too much of both, I think, and not in the right places. Exploitive levels of brutality and then odd outbursts of silliness that pulled me out of the story completely (especially in the third act which I will admit I pretty much hated). And, boy, he doesn’t turn away from that violence at all. Of course, every gunshot creates an outlandish explosion of blood and a loud squish. This won’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows the director’s work. But scenes of violence not involving gunshots (hammers, for instance, or attack dogs) are much, much more painful to watch. Whereas in Inglourious Basterds, he made sure we understood the horrifying acts that were happening just off-screen (or onscreen to Nazis and therefore not as horrifying), or in Pulp Fiction, he had us look right at a fatal gunshot to the head but then used the tension to make us laugh, the violence against slaves depicted in Django is bloody and cruel, and we have to look at it all. It is difficult and will be way too much for a lot of viewers, as will the ridiculously frequent usage of the N-word (again, no surprise). For me, all of that would have felt justified if the movie hadn’t ended up feeling so uneven. That makes it sound like I hated the whole thing, but I really liked a lot of it. In fact, I was on board until that last half-hour. There is a scene involving KKK hoods that I guarantee is the most you will ever chuckle about KKK hoods, for instance. And Christoph Waltz and Samuel Jackson are both so great. Leo is perfect in his against-type performance, truly. I mostly liked Jamie Foxx, too, until the very end. (Have I mentioned yet how much I hated the very end?). I thought the incongruous score was really fun, too. And how about all the cameos?! Hi for literally 4 seconds, Amber Tamblyn! I enjoyed your 7 minutes of screen time, Jonah Hill! Don Johnson! Walton Goggins! That one guy from “Lost”!
So, yeah. I don’t know. B-, I guess?
Kim: Sarah! You said it. I really wanted to enjoy this movie wholeheartedly, as I did Inglourious Basterds, which was a hilarious and emotional surprise—if only to spite the humorless mudslinger Spike Lee, who has been whining (again) about Tarantino’s liberal use of the N-word and saying “something is wrong with [Tarantino].” Well, no shit, sir, the man is a heaping pile of weirdo, but since when does that matter in the director’s chair? I mean, he chose to miscast himself as an Australian mining company employee: WHAT and YES. But there is something off about this one—and I think you called it with the high (and unearned) Silliness Factor. And not to go all Jezebel on you, but I have to mention the issue of ladies in this movie—Kerry Washington, as Django’s wife, does little more than scream, look around in wide-eyed fear, and giggle idiotically. Laura Cayouette as DiCaprio’s sister/possible lover does the same, but in fancier costumes. And Tamblyn got to look hott for Christoph (who isn’t? Please put that man in all the movies, preferably in tweed) for, yep, 4 seconds. Tarantino laughs in the face of the Bechdel test! I’m also wondering if Jamie Foxx was the correct choice here? I went in assuming this would be a comeback of sorts since we haven’t seen much of him since his Ray Oscar win (although I must admit that his urban legendary music special, “Unpredictable,” is never far from my mind—remember when he sang that soulful ballad about wishing his dead granny knew he was rich? Why isn’t this on YouTube?!), but I don’t know that he has the magnetism to make me feel anything for Django. I was more invested in the unnamed men traveling with him at various points throughout the movie. Hmm. But hey—I’m thinking more about this movie than I did about Inside Man, Summer of Sam, etc, combined, so zing, Mr. Lee. That and DiCaprio’s lustrous facial hair earns it a B- from me as well. So now I guess we wait for Kill Bill: Vol. 3?