Mary Conti’s review published on Letterboxd:
Part of The December Project: Film #70
Snappy Dialogue with lots of profanity?
Anachronistic pop songs?
An attempt to emulate Sergio Leone and Jean Luc Godard?
Loads of cameos from various notable B actors and lower?
A wicked sense of humor?
Yup. It's a Tarantino film.
Before I get into the more negative part of my review, I feel as if I should clarify something: I had a blast watching Django Unchained. I didn't really expect it to have the effect on me, but it did. I was smiling the whole time, I was laughing at all the right moments, and I got excited at all the exciting parts. In that respect, Django Unchained is a successful film, and its mass audience applause it is getting shows it.
The film maximizes all of Tarantino's aspects. This means we get magnified the best of what makes a Tarantino film a Tarantino film, but we also end up getting the worst Tarantino traits as well (more on that later).
While this appears to be the biggest Tarantino film in terms of scope, there's also something comfortably contained about it. Django Unchained is a very simple story, and it works to its benefit by not complicating everything in the process. There are a lot of actors in Django Unchained, but Tarantino knows to keep the film concentrated on its core group of actors, so we come to like our heroes more, and hate our villains in the best way possible.
Jamie Foxx is great in the title role, adding a mystique to Django and also fitting the near iconic nature his role seeks to imitate at the end. Christoph Waltz proves to be one of the few people who can handle Tarantino dialogue without sounding like Quentin Tarantino, and is easily the best part of the film (again). Leonardo DiCaprio is clearly having the time of his life playing a slimy Francophile plantation owner, and it's nice to see him stretch his legs a bit. The supporting cast is also great with Samuel L. Jackson and Kerry Washington holding their own against the giants of the film, and the minor roles are also great.
But there are plenty of flaws within this film, and it keeps rubbing me the wrong way, so I can't fully embrace this film like many are doing.
First and foremost, the language in this film is abhorrent. I have no problem with profanity, but brevity is the soul of wit, and sometimes Tarantino doesn't know when to stop. The "N" word is shoved in a lot of lines of dialogue where it doesn't seem to fit. Don't get me wrong, I understand its necessity (And I'm far from being a person that celebrates political correctness). It keeps taking me out of the film, and worse, makes me feel uneasy, and not in the way the film wants me to.
Secondly (and probably most importantly), Django Unchained is far too long and far too bloated. There are scenes that go on far longer than they need to, and scenes that don't really feel that necessary. There's a scene that lasts 3 minutes, and it consists entirely of making a bunch of Klansmen look like wussies. It's a funny scene, but did it need to be that long? I'm guessing Sally Menke's death really affected the quality of this film.
While the violence and brutality is ultimately what makes this film so gleeful, it is also over the top in a bad way at times. I seriously haven't seen that many squibs used in a film since Sonny's death in The Godfather. This film is BLOODY, but the worst part about it is that Tarantino doesn't seem to show any restraint. He's just going wild with it.
But even then, and even worse, the thing that ticks me off the worst about Django Unchained is something on an artistic and creative level for Tarantino: It's really juvenile.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing, since the teenage mentality of Tarantino's films is what gives them their appeal. But really, Quentin, I thought you were starting to grow out of it. Inglourious Basterds WAS your masterpiece because you managed to combine what makes your films feel so unique despite taking a lot from other filmmakers, and yet it also showed a lot of restraint and a willingness to grow and actually be about something. It was the perfect balance. You managed to do what you were trying with Jackie Brown, and you did it so well people didn't hate you for it that time.
But its one step forward, and two steps back. We're back in your silly "Grindhouse" territory. This isn't a terrible thing, but you know, I like it when you try different things Quentin. You've gotten lucky considering you don't release films that often, so it doesn't feel like you are diluting what is essentially your brand, but if this is to be your second to last film, don't you think it'd be better to show some variety?
But I digress. Django Unchained IS a lot of fun. And I can't fault that at all. But god damn it Quentin, grow the fuck up already and give us something new.