CHICAGO – The issue of gender identity, especially for those who are born with a vagueness as to what to call themselves between/beyond boy and girl, has come front and center in the U.S., both with the legalization of gay marriage and the callous repudiation of identity by trying to pass laws dismissing it (the North Carolina “bathroom” laws). The performance companies of The Living Canvas and Nothing Without a Company is currently staging “[Trans]formation,” which presents gender identity art by six performers, who perform most of the play in the nude.
Film Review: Jamie Foxx Rides in Quentin Tarantino’s Incredibly Fun ‘Django Unchained’
CHICAGO – Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” has some undeniable pleasures, the kind that erupt from the screenwriting abilities of one of the best movie scribes alive. Tarantino’s way with words and plotting are as honed as ever and he directs his super-talented cast to enjoyable performances all around. His reboot of the “Django” character is smart, funny, action-packed, and remarkably stylized. It’s also a tad too long, containing a few scenes that should have been left on the cutting room floor, which could have resulted in a more streamlined masterpiece instead of merely a heck of a lot of fun.
A chain gang of slaves crosses a wintery plain. Among them is a man named Django (Jamie Foxx), who is bought in the opening scene by Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a bounty hunter masquerading as a dentist. He feels guilty about buying a slave, a practice in which he doesn’t believe, but he needs Django’s help finding three men who Schultz has been assigned to bring to justice. After that assignment ends successfully, Schultz agrees to help Django reunite with his true love, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), who has been purchased by the notorious Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, and Don Johnson co-star in small but crucial roles.
|Read Brian Tallerico’s full review of “Django Unchained” in our reviews section.|
In many ways, “Django Unchained” is Tarantino’s most straightforward script. It doesn’t have the chronological jumps that have in many ways defined his style and its plot is relatively simple – two men devise a plan to save a slave in the name of love. On this simple structure, Tarantino works wonders with theme and dialogue. Candie is a fan of mandingo fighting, pitting his biggest slaves up against each other in fights that often result in death. This manipulative scumbag so well-played against type by DiCaprio is getting entertainment out of slaves in turmoil. Which is arguably what Tarantino is doing as a filmmaker as well.
It’s just one example of how “Django Unchained” is one of those films that works on multiple levels, either as pure escapist entertainment or as something deeper. Much has been made of Tarantino’s copious use of the n-word but don’t think that “Django” isn’t a complex examination of race and identity. It features some daring tonal shifts that make the brutality of the action feel more honest than a lot of Tarantino’s movies. In the final, incredible scenes at Candie Land, easily the peak of the film and some of the best scenes of the year, everyone on-screen is hiding something from Django pretending to be a mandingo expert to Broomhilda pretending she doesn’t know him to Samuel L. Jackson’s memorable turn as a loyal butler with plenty to hide. No one is really who they purport to be and Tarantino has a blast here in something that plays not unlike an extended version of the best scene in the bar in “Inglourious Basterds.”
Photo credit: The Weinstein Company