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Curtis Hansonís 8 MILE -2002

Mar 25, 2003
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:The music, Basinger and Phifer, the rap wars

Cons:lack of character development, lack of plot ...graphic sex, violence, yadda yadda yadda

The Bottom Line: An entertaining musical....was it supposed to be funny?....drama?


When I bought this video, it came from a “warning” from the cashier at Wall mart. I looked at her in shock, my lower lip touching my shirt collar.

“This movie is uncensored”.

What?

“I’m supposed to tell you that”

(Gasp! )You mean it has bad language or something?

“I haven’t seen it , but I think there’s er...more to it...something about the music video”.

I offered her my license to prove I was of age. (LOL) I would have liked to know if she issued that warning to everyone, or it was my sweet innocence that promoted her protectiveness. I guess I’ll never know.

This years’s Oscar Winning Song, “Lose Yourself” came from this movie, and that is probably enough to earn a recommendation all by itself-or maybe not. For people my age, it was with a ,little trepidation that I put this DVD gingerly in the player turned up the sound on and played it in its full glory, for me and granniemose, who most of you know is 80 years old. I won’t make you wait to hear the results of this experience. Granniemose really liked the movie. I thought it was entertaining , with some reservations.

I am not a huge fan of rap, and the Hip Hop Culture is as foreign to me, as the Rock Generation of the sixties is to most of you. The real beauty of this movie , I think is that it brings some of the culture to us, and bridges some communication gaps in understanding the music and the motivation behind some of the most controversial music written played and enjoyed in our times.

The acting is no great shakes, although some of it isn’t bad, and the plot is execrable and muddled, written by Scott Silver who wrote the equally execrable Mod Squad remake, and a better movie, Johns (1996) , which he also directed. As a writer, his strength is the seamier side of life. He seems to have a little trouble with the actual “story” part. Yet the movie still manages to pull off a redeeming message . And if nothing else touches you with this movie you will at very least enjoy the energy and the expressive possibilities of the music. I have listened to it several times, and I like it better each time it plays.

So what is the genre of this movie? Hey, isn’t it a musical? Well if so, then we shouldn’t need a decent plot or good acting to label it a worthy venture. Didn’t Moulin Rouge get a bunch a Academy Award Nominations last year? To me the life of a poet in Detroit is a heck of a lot more interesting and relevant than some delicate young man in a romantic melodrama at the turn of the century. I know you don’t agree, but that’s the way I see it.

DIRECTING

Curtis Hanson, the director of such worthy ventures as LA Confidential (one of my all time favorite movies) and Wonder Boys , another movie I liked a lot , would seem to be having trouble knowing what he wants to be when he grows up. In fact, I believe he is showing something else. A curiosity and willingness to immerse himself in the environment of his movie. 8 Mile is to Detroit what Wonder Boys was to Pittsburgh...it uses the nature of the city and the people as a character in the plot. In this movie it takes on even moire significance, as the character bridges a gap, the famous 8 mile section of road that separates the city from the suburbs.

Hanson actually started his career as an editor and photographer for CINEMA magazine Then he started writing screen plays. His first directed feature , Sweet Kill was a sexploitation type movie in the 70's. Then he did an awful Kid flick, Little Dragons (1980) and then a teenage sex exploits moving, giving Tom Cruise his first starring role in Losin’ it I took me a while to forgive that. But, his movies have been getting better since 1990 with Bad Influence , and 1992, with Hand That Rocks the Cradle, he put a scare into trusting parents everywhere.
Riverwild, despite its stars, Kevin Bacon and Meryl Streep, is a movie I never want to see, but after that, everything is at least entertaining! 8 Mile is no exception. Because it IS entertaining, and whether or not you admit it, it should make you think a little bit .

Does Hanson deserve praise or ridicule for his directing efforts? I am leaning toward praise. I suspect he had a lot of work to do to make this work at all.

As a point of minor trivia, two of Curtis Hanson’s movies have had Oscar Winning Songs. (Bob Dylan’s Things Have Changed is the other one.)

FILM ELEMENTS

The photography is unexceptional , but well edited, and tells the story as it should.. The plot is linear, with no real surprises. What was best about it was the fact that it was not overly romanticized. Although you may develop sympathy for the protagonist, you probably won’t like him much to start with, and maybe not even at the end of the movie. I didn’t. It does not keep me from admiring the poetic quality of his art.

The performances for this movie fit together pretty well, and Eminem (or Enema Man as I have been wont to call him) is not so bad...nor could it have been too difficult, since he was essentially reliving parts of his own life for the movie. Kim Basinger is at first unrecognizable in the role of the trailer trash Mom, and I personally thought it was an excellent performance. It was courageous and brutal. Because she is a person you will not be able to like or forgive.


WHAT ABOUT DETROIT?

It has been a long time since I have been a resident of a core American City, but some things don’t change. In the middle all things do come together, and sometimes they work out. The movie is about a young man’s anger really, and the drive that he has to express himself. That he is invading a subculture not inherently his , and can be accepted as a member despite being white, is a tribute to better aspects of being human. The expression and facility with words is what earns him entry into the elite. His color has less to do with it than his socioeconomic angst, rage and frustration. Is it realistic? I am in no position to judge. I only know that a common love for an art form creates spiritual bonds that are not color coded.


MY PROBLEMS WITH THIS FLICK

Not as many as I might have thought, except that it seemed a little too “plug in plot” for me. I disliked the way women were treated and used in the movie, and in fact did not see any women that I could identify as HAVING any character. It is a misogynistic view of humanity, if you judge by Jimmy’s relationships. Having a tough time at home doesn’t excuse it. I could have lived without the graphic sex scene in the factory, and the profanity in the flick is offensive to some , although I thought it was remarkably tasteful all things considered. The violence (the beatings) is something to be considered if you are watching this movie with children. This is by no means Oscar material, unless of course you judge it by last years nomination of Moulin Rouge. But it is undeniably entertaining.

THE PLOT

It is a big night at the Shelter (a club in Detroit). "Rabbit" is entered in a rap contest, promoted by his buddy “Future”. He is so nervous he barfs on himself. At the big moment, he chokes, unable to start. He is humiliated, and lets his buddies down. But the rage is building. Rabbit (Jimmy) is having a bad day. He left his girlfriend, (she was pregnant) left his car with her, got fired from his job, and messed up his big chance to compete as a rap artist. Yup, pretty bad night...until he gets home to his mother’s trailer and finds her in bed with no- job Greg, who is waiting for his insurance settlement. His little sister, Lily watches everything with wide eyed horror. First order, fight with Greg.

He starts his new job in a factory, and he is in trouble already, late his first day. We are getting a picture of a pretty angry young man, and believe it or not, things do get worse. Another old friend is trying to make a living promoting rap groups and local talent, and he offers an opportunity, that Rabbit wants to try, even leaving his old groupies to do it. And then, Momma is about to get evicted for non payment of rent. And Greg and his insurance check are history.

What could make it worse than that? Actually I could think of a few things. But there is no where to go from here but up.....

**Note I didn’t understand the fire, or Rabbit looking at a left-over photo in the abandoned house, of a black family.....did I miss something?


THE CAST

Eminem as Jimmy Smith Jr (B Rabbit)-I guess Marshall Bruce Mathers would be MC” BM”, which could not be worse than Enemaman could it? Most of this flick has resonance in this man’s angry young life. The character has a few redeeming graces, to grab your sympathy. The first is his affection for his baby sister. The second is....wait I’m thinking. Maybe there is not a second redeeming grace, except finally his ability to realize that he has to do something to earn respect and keep it. . He leave his girlfriend when he thinks she’s pregnant. He is rude and angry and hateful to his mother,( although it may be deserved.) He has a violent temper, and erupts in face- beating violence from time to time. You are almost glad to see him get the beating you figured he would earn in the first 15 minutes of the film. Obviously he has a problem with impulse control, and has very little respect for women that I can see. But he is funny, and the anger is a driving force in this performance and in his life, although his expression is about half stupid throughout much of the movie. He wasn’t that bad, really and he had good negative energy for Basinger. They were convincing as enemies.

In his personal life, Eminem also has made his fortune on his rage. But he is often very funny. Even the video “Superman” made me laugh, although I didn’t want to.

He is quoted as saying, (facetiously ).

“I don’t like Rap anyways. I’m just trying to get my porno career started”.

My advice? Keep your day job.

Kim Basinger as Stephanie-Jimmy’s trailer trash mother, who we meet in shall we say compromising circumstances when she and her boyfriend are “busy” when Rabbit comes home unannounced. This is a good , gutsy performance, of a role that could not have been easy for her. She is rumored to have hated the rapper, so the mutual loathing must have had some basis in fact. Basinger won an Academy Award for another of Hanson’s movies, LA Confidential. I did develop some sympathy for her character, but no respect. My favorite all time role for Basinger though was as the alien in My Stepmother Was an Alien.

Mekhi Phifer as Future-this is the one of only a few guys in the movie worthy of some sort of admiration. He is running the Rap Contests, and is a forgiving friend. The actor had his screen debut in Tuskagee Airmen with Laurence Fishburne in 1995, and is currently playing a doctor on ER. He was good enough to make his character live past the film.


Britany Murphy as Alex-This is the girl who is the sort of love interest. Rabbit likes her, and she likes him. But she is upwardly mobile in her career as a model (she is 5 ‘ 1") and will sleep her way to the top. I disliked this character, pretty intensely. Hard to blame the kid for his attitude towards women. I was impressed with this actress in Don’t Say a Word, with Michael Douglas.

Evan Jones as Cheddar Bob-this is the goofy friend, who remains goofy to the end, even shooting himself when he pulls a gun. He is only marginally funny, but although tactless and stupid, he is still a friend, and the token white guy in Rabbit’s bunch of groupies. OK I guess. There’s always someone just like him in any group. Hope it isn’t me.

Omar Benson Miller as Sol George. This is another likable guy, but not much more than a cheering section. He doesn’t do much except yearn after money and women, and nothing much happens to him.

D’Angelo Wilson -JJ Iz-The other member of the groupie section. He is the dashiki wearin’ MF, who likes to philosophize about life, and morality. Actually I kind of liked this character. There is one of them in every group. I hope it isn’t me.

Eugene Byrd as Wink-This is the blower and gower, the would- be agent. There is some animosity toward him from FUTURE which I understood to be rivalry, and lack of trust. Later of course, he has his way with the girl Alex, and Rabbit beats the crap out of him. What I liked best about this character is that he stopped the vengeance-seeking gang from killing the white guy, proving that you CAN control your anger, even if you think it justified. I had a little sympathy for the guy...or maybe I just liked him because he was one of the better actors.

Taryn Manning as Janeane- This girl is the one that Rabbit leaves (and leaves her his car) because she says she is pregnant. Was she pregnant? When she shows up for the one scene she spoke in, I couldn’t tell, but I don’t think she was. It does make a difference. This kid has had small parts in bad movies. She is still waiting for her break through role. This was not it.

You know there are more people in this movie, but those are the important ones.


FINAL RECOMMENDATION

If you are looking for a way to spend an hour or so listening to Rap music with a tiny bit of plot to carry it, well this is your movie! I kind of enjoyed it. I just wish they had written a better story, with ANY woman worthy of some interest, as a character. This movie gets an extra star, because Granniemose liked it. She said it felt like the real thing, based on her many years experience working in a racially mixed high School in Cleveland

This movie made me want to rush straight to my note pad to start writing Rap lyrics. The world just isn’t ready for that. Not yet







Recommend this product? Yes

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