“Django Unchained” or “Would SOMEONE please give Leonardo DiCaprio an Oscar NOW?” by Caitlin McGrane

Posted on February 1, 2013


Last year I wrote a piece about a number of Oscar-nominated films that featured several prominent actors doing performances. These films come around about this time every year and are essentially jumping up and down in front of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) like an enthusiastic child wanting to be picked for a team. Not that there is anything wrong with that, because I’d rather see approximately 1 million films of The Artist’s calibre than watch another offering from perpetual oxygen-thief Adam Sandler.

This year is no different. This year’s offerings include Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Argo, Les Miserables and Django Unchained (amongst many others). I’ve seen quite a few of these already and have been consistently impressed by them (except you, Silver Linings Playbook, you were awesome but you are also life ruiners). But Django was the only one thus far that I have felt compelled to write about. Part of this reason is explained in the title, but also because there are a couple of bones I need to pick with Quentin Tarantino.

The "Django Unchained" Poster: Sunburnt Edition

The “Django Unchained” Poster: Sunburnt Edition

There is so much to like about Django. For starters, the performances are absolutely astounding. Jamie Foxx (babein’ as always) as Django himself, Christoph Waltz as Dr. King Schultz (doing his extremely controlled yet also slightly unhinged schtick), the aforementioned DiCaprio as Calvin Candie (demented plantation owner and Tarantino-style psychopath), and Samuel L. Jackson as Stephen (Candie’s slave, doing what I think is one of his finest performances since Pulp Fiction).

The film opens with Django’s freedom from slavery by Dr. Schultz in Waltz’s most spectacularly underplayed fashion. Schultz explains his role as a bounty hunter and asks Django to assist him in finding men wanted for horrific crimes. He promises Django a share in his profits, and as the duo traverse the Wild West administering justice it transpires that Django has been separated from his wife (Kerry Washington). Broomhilda (Washington) is being held in the Candyland plantation by Calvin Candie, so Django and Schultz then hatch a cunning plan in the manner of Baldrick to rescue her forthwith. It now occurs to me in the course of writing this synopsis that there is sooo much going on in this film. Which brings me to my problems with it…

Leo, baby-child, oooo take me to Candieland.

I know a number of people who love Tarantino so much that they won’t hear a bad word said against him (including my housemate, god love ‘er). I love Tarantino’s earlier stuff (particularly Jackie Brown and Pulp Fiction). He has it in him to make brilliant, clear and interesting films. The problem with Django is not the length, or the content, or even the insane number of uses of the ‘n word’. The problem with Django is that certain scenes go on for far too long. And I would like it known that I have a massive problem with Tarantino’s cameo in this film. I was willing to forgive the film for its length, until the man himself appears, then it just lost me. Not only is Tarantino a pretty shoddy actor, he also appears doing the worst Australian accent I have ever heard. He sounds like a poor man’s Crocodile Dundee. And not only that, but the accent makes NO SENSE WHATSOEVER. Yes, I know John Jarrett is in that scene too, but I really think that if Tarantino is committed to making a film about slavery and revenge, he needs to be more tactful. I found his appearance distasteful because it was born of pure arrogance. A friend told me that a scene in which the accent is explained was cut, and I reckon if the explanation was cut, then cut the scene too! Without it, it made no sense. And if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s scenes that are in films for no reason.

So would I recommend Django? Yes, yes I would. I would tell audiences that my problems with it were crystallised once the credits rolled, and that there is so so so much to love that I can’t really explain without giving away major plot points. So go see it, and maybe just shut your eyes during Tarantino’s scenes. Or focus on how babein’ Jamie Foxx is (dude is fiiiiiine).

Caitlin McGrane is You’re Dripping Egg columnist. You can catch her column, Here, Hare, Here, every Friday.

What did you think of Django Unchained? Tarantino not all he is cracked up to be? Or was it the best thing ever?