8 Mile

A Film Review By Jason L. King

Rating:Rated R for strong language, sexuality, some violence and drug use.
Starring: Marshall Mathers (Eminem), Kim Basinger, Brittany Murphy, Mekhi Phifer
Directed By:Curtis Hanson

Final Grade:

Everyone has heard of Eminem. The white rapper caught the world by storm years ago, when he caught the world by surprise by getting up on a stage and poking fun at literally everyone and everything. (Kind of like Michael’s movie reviews) People were forced to decide is he a musical visionary, who is simply expressing himself or is he the biggest waste of space since most Starbucks coffeehouses. That set aside, some people put Eminem on a side burner and tried to forget him, but there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Eminem is back, this time on the big screen.

The Eminem Show made it to Ames this week when 8 Mile made it’s way to the Varsity 2 theater. Showing on both screens, I figured I would have no problem sneaking into the theater opening night. But I underestimated the power of Eminem. Varsity was packed. The lines for Varsity were out the door, in fact longer than many of the lines to the bars in Ames. That’s when I had a shocking revelation, Eminem is more important to Ames than Alcohol. In a college town, that not only frightens and confuses me, but also makes me respect the rap superstar a little more.

Realizing that Varsity sold out all 4 showings of it Friday evening, and I later learned Saturday evening as well, I let those crazy Eminem fans get their kicks, and let them watch it first. Besides, I didn’t want to sit in a packed theater by two pistol toting drug addict kids, who thought it was cool to take everything Eminem says to heart. Finally on Sunday afternoon I made my way into Varsity and checked out 8 Mile. I had high hopes going in since it was directed by Curtis Hanson (Wonder Boys) and I was a huge fan of that, as well as… yes, kind of an Eminem fan at heart, but then again honestly who isn’t?

8 Mile is the story of Jimmy Smith Jr., a young rapper who lives in Detroit’s famed 8 Mile, the borderline of Detroit. There amongst this area of Detroit we find not only the physical decay of the streets around them, but also the psychological decay of Jimmy as he dreams of something better (a rap career) yet knows few believe in him. The film gives us a chance to live life in the 8 Mile, follow Jimmy “B-Rabbit” Smith for a few days as he struggles to survive, and earn the respect of the people around him in a world where respect is all you have.

Enough with the synopsis, everyone wants to know, can Marshall Mathers, AKA Eminem, actually act. You bet you he can. The 28-year-old star ditches his blonde hair and heads to the big screen. Curtis Hanson did wonders once again as he used Eminem’s boyish charm to the extreme. 8 Mile relies heavily of expression. And expression is what we get from Eminem. Even with some crappy dialogue at times, Eminem carries us through with simple gestures and expressions of the face that keep us thinking 8 Mile is solid gold. Eminem has learned long ago that you can say whatever you want, when you’ve perfected “the big blue eyed puppy dog look,” and its obvious that he has perfected it. The camera loves him and his stage success transgresses to success on the screen as well. Eminem like it or not, draws you closer to him and closer to the film. So like I said earlier, look out guys the boy wonder can act and don’t think that 8 Mile will be the last of Eminem.

Now I can’t go on for pages about 8 Mile without giving credit where credit is due. Director Curtis Hanson deserves more credit than anyone else in the film does. Hanson was able to see the raw talent that Eminem had, and help him take that talent and turn it into something on the screen. Combine that with a setting, that keeps true to life, and is an accurate portrayal of Detroit’s 8 Mile, Hanson is creating another hit. I can’t begin to praise Hanson enough for the decisions made in the film. He even manages to work some elements of humor into the film, with a “remake” of the song “Sweet Home Alabama” and through colorful characters. Amongst all the depression and decay we are even given a glimpse of humor, through Cheddar Bob, Eminem’s wannabe gangsta friend.

Now due to the subject matter, and more importantly our subject, Eminem, I was expecting the movie to be filled with what people immediately think of when they hear the name Eminem: Guns, Drugs and Swearing. Sure, we hit all three of those in the film, but only one of them is taken to excess. Hearing a few (or every other word) swear words are expected in a film based in a tough neighborhood. Guns are a minor role in the film; in fact Eminem doesn’t carry one, and actually yells at his friend for having one. There is some drug use, but to be honest, I’m not even sure if Eminem was actually doing it with his buddies, or if he was just along. Which led me to thinking is Marshall Mathers trying to be a role model? Sure the movie is about a tough life, but is he making a statement to the children he knows will see the movie? I honestly have no answer to this but it almost seemed like it in the film. Whether that was the decision of Hanson or Eminem, it surprised the hell out of me.

Is 8 Mile worth the cash? Because after all that’s what everyone wants to know right? I think it is. It doesn’t matter if you’ve shelled out cash for all of his albums or if you have sat in our house hating everything about the man, the movie is worth a viewing. For all of you who are sitting at home thinking, I won’t see it because it’s just a whining story of Eminem’s, so he can justify being a jerk (I’ve heard one or two of those complaints) you’re missing out. IF you want to watch a movie like that, I believe Mariah Carrey made Glitter last year for your viewing pleasure. But if you want to see a real film, head to Varsity and check out 8 Mile. In the end as long as your life isn’t threatened by some 17-year-old “White Trash Gangsta” in the seat next to you, you’ll enjoy the flick and head back to theaters a second time. I know I will.

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