[MOVIE REVIEW]Eminem’s ‘8 Mile’ a homage to himselfEvery year or so, a searing new film exposes the harsh reality of urban life in America today. But if you go back and look at those films on video a few years later, they almost inevitably look melodramatic, overwrought and just plain silly.
So, you’ll excuse me if I don’t jump on the Eminem bandwagon and profusely praise “8 Mile.”
Not that “8 Mile” is a bad film. It’s just surprisingly tepid, kind of a retread of “Rocky” or “Saturday Night Fever” for the hip-hop fans of today.
The story is straightforward: Rabbit (Eminem) is an aspiring rapper, whose skills are as great as his life is not. He lives in the run-down 8 Mile area of Detroit, the part that separates the urban squalor and white trash from the posh, upscale homes across the road. Rabbit, needless to say, does not live on the posh side.
In a hip-hop competition that starts the film, Rabbit chokes up, is humiliated and booed off stage. Convinced that he will never amount to anything, Rabbit moves back in with his mom (Kim Basinger) and his beloved sister in their small trailer. He gets a job at a local metalworks plant.
But as much as Rabbit denies it, even to himself, hip-hop calls, and he is always writing on little pieces of paper, jamming them full of rhymes.
All his friends think that Rabbit is full of talent, and they push him to perform in a rematch the next weekend. In the meantime, however, the lot of them mostly just drive around, hang out, meet girls, make trouble and, oh, just keep it real.
Will Rabbit make it to the showdown? Will he overcome his fears and prove his talents to all? Not exactly the most skill-testing question ever devised.
Curtis Hanson’s direction is passable, and he clearly made an attempt to raise the material, but there’s only so much anyone can do with such a hackneyed, simplistic tale.
This is, after all, an Eminem movie. Eminem is in every scene, he walks in front of all his friends, he gives his car away to ex-girlfriends, he loves his sister, he’s respected by most everyone, black and white.
The endless search for “authenticity” that pervades this film (and much of hip-hop) is more grating than anything. Rabbit is from the poor part of Detroit, so he’s “more real” than the other rappers who are from an upper-class neighborhood. Of course, most of the members of Public Enemy, arguably the most important hip-hop group of all time, were from upper-middle-class homes. And in general, can’t we put an end to this cult-of-the-poor artist?
But in the end, the best message of “8 Mile” is a simple one ― work hard, save your money and keep doing what you love. And hope that, like Eminem, you just happen to be massively talented. I like Eminem’s music a lot. I just don’t like this film.
by Mark Russell