The Life & Times of Eminem
Not being a fan of Eminem's music, watching "8 Mile" was never at the top of my list of things to do, but under pressure I found myself watching it and expected another mediocre performance from a singer who thinks they can act. I was completely wrong as "8 Mile" is a very good, gritty movie with an interesting storyline and what I can only class as a surprisingly good performance from Eminem, seeing this was his big screen debut. Plus it features a wonderful performance from Kim Basinger as his down trodden mother and an adequate one from Brittany Murphy as his girlfriend.
For Jimmy 'Bunny Rabbit' Smith Jr. (Eminem), life in the Detroit ghetto is pretty depressing. Forced to move back in with his mother on a trailer park, after breaking up with his pregnant girlfriend, he dreams of escaping his down trodden life and his job in a metal pressing factory. His only real chance of escaping his miserable existence comes from his ability to rap, but every time he gets the opportunity to showcase his stuff, he fluffs up under the pressure and fails miserably. Looking destined to remain just another white trailer trash rapper with no prospects; his best friend Future (Mekhi Phifer - Dawn of the Dead) and new girl Alex (Brittany Murphy - Riding in Cars with Boys) try to help him gain his confidence.
The storyline to "8 Mile" is supposedly based on Eminem's life growing up in a predominantly black world where he strived to become a rapper. Whether this is the case, I cannot say as I am by no means an expert on Eminem, but what I watched was a very good drama which details the struggles of a white rapper in a predominantly black world.
The main focus of the storyline is Jimmy and his struggle to become a top rapper, even though he is unable to cope with the pressure. On top of this there are several sub storylines which also include his mother sleeping with someone who was at school with him, a romance between Jimmy and new girl on the block, Alex, and the fighting between rival gangs in the ghetto. All of these elements build up to make a surprisingly engrossing movie which not only entertains but in some ways gives you a crash course in understanding the world of a rapper.
Of course, the storyline is by no means perfect and an over long, stereotypical sex scene between Eminem and Brittany Murphy seems to have only been included as if it was a must have element in a modern movie. This is just one element of several in "8 Mile" which although pads the movie out, seems to have no direct bearing on the movie and could have easily been worked into the storyline much better or dispensed with all together. But even though there are numerous flaws, the movie is still remarkably enjoyable, and in reality is a surprisingly good modern drama.
This is also one of the surprising things about "8 mile", not only does it have interesting characters it also has some very good performances, the most notable of these coming from Eminem himself. I say surprising, as not only is it unusual for a singer to be able to make a decent transition onto the big screen, but also from what I knew of Eminem prior to "8 Mile" made me think that maybe his ego would affect his performance. It probably helped that the storyline is semi-biopic, so he would have felt at ease with the character, but this shouldn't detract from what is a very good performance, worthy of someone who has been in movies for a few years.
Also putting in a very good performance is Kim Basinger as Jimmy's mother Stephanie, in a role which is a complete contrast to her usual choice. Usually known for her glamorous appearance and sexy roles, her character in "8 Mile" is the complete opposite as she is basically a trailer trash mother who jumps from one bed to the next quicker than you can read this review. Even though Basinger steps outside her comfort zone with this role, she puts in a great performance which although is eclipsed by that of Eminem, is still brilliant to watch.
Adding to the ensemble is Brittany Murphy as new girlfriend Alex who is adequate in her performance and features in that popular sex scene, as well as Mekhi Phifer as best friend Future. Both put in decent performances but as is the case with Kim Basinger, their performances are eclipsed by that of Eminem.
"8 mile" is directed by Curtis Hanson who had previously brought us such gems as "The Hand That Rocks The Cradle" and "L.A. Confidential". Although on different territory to his typical movie, Hanson has done an exceptional job in creating such a good movie. Not only has he nurtured a great performance out of Eminem, but he has made a very good modern drama which could have fallen foul of all the usual issues with movies of this type. In fact he has made the world of rapping accessible to a much wider audience who would not have had any interest in it prior to this.
It is no surprise that with a movie heavily set in the world of rapping that the "8 Mile" soundtrack mainly features this type of music, with many of the songs coming directly from Eminem himself. Of course the music fits perfectly with the movie and what is nice that through the educational aspect of the movie you start to understand what the songs are about.
What this all boils down to is that although I was totally against watching "8 Mile", I am glad that I did as not only is it very entertaining but it also a brilliant drama which will keep your attention through out. Yes it does have its flaws, mainly the use of stereotypical scenes which are occasionally out of place and very predictable, but these do not overly detract from the movie. What is most surprising is that even though I am not a fan of rap music or Eminem, the movie still managed to entertain me. Although predominantly aimed at fans of rap music and in particular Eminem, there is something in this movie for everyone.