A chronicle of John Lennon's first years, focused mainly in his adolescence and his relationship with his stern aunt Mimi, who raised him, and his absentee mother Julia, who re-entered his life at a crucial moment in his young life.
Kristin Scott Thomas,
The story of the life and career of the legendary rhythm and blues musician Ray Charles, from his humble beginnings in the South, where he went blind at age seven, to his meteoric rise to stardom during the 1950s and 1960s.
The story of the famous and influential 1960s rock band and its lead singer and composer, Jim Morrison, from his days as a UCLA film student in Los Angeles, to his untimely death in Paris, France at age 27 in 1971.
NOTORIOUS is the story of Christopher Wallace. Through raw talent and sheer determination, Wallace transforms himself from Brooklyn street hustler (once selling crack to pregnant women) to one of the greatest rappers of all time; THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G. Follow his meteoric rise to fame and his refusal to succumb to expectations - redefining our notion of "The American Dream." Written by
Fox Searchlight Pictures
This film reminded me of The Sopranos, and not in a good way.
David Chase's seminal mob opera only ever put its foot wrong twice, the most jarring and inexplicable instance of which took place in its fourth season, when Junior Soprano went on trial for his life. Rather than pursue this riveting (and pivotal) plot line, the writers instead chose to completely ignore it, focusing instead on Bobby Baccalieri's constant whimpering over his recently deceased wife's frozen pasta dish.
When something of genuine interest happens in Notorious - for example that first, mysterious assassination attempt on Tupac Shakur that ignited the whole East Coast/West Coast feud in the first place, and ended up leading to the deaths of both Tupac and Christopher Wallace - the film treats it as just another bit of plot to plod through. Why exactly was Tupac so convinced that he was sold out by his own people? Did he alone nurture his subsequent affiliation with Suge Knight? And was Lil' Kim's transformation from prim office drone into sex-obsessed, vampish diva really as banal as it appears here?
None of these questions are even fleetingly addressed by the film's screenwriters, who are far more interested in depicting Wallace's turbulent love life to zero compelling dramatic avail. These sequences (including a brain-frazzlingly clichéd groupie indescretion in a hotel room) are so toothless and bruisingly manipulative that the only real comparison to be made is with a network TV movie.
The storytelling, in both structure and content, is simplistic and trite. But more fundamentally, as a biopic; as something designed to celebrate its subject and educate the uninitiated on the intricacies of their life and work; the film is almost entirely worthless. The reliance on meat-and-potatoes genre plotting, coupled with the lifeless musical performances (an area in which a film like this should soar, surely) result in a film that appears to have been designed only to satisfy the whims and demands of those involved, leaving Wallace's questionable status as a giant in his field as the preserve of the easily persuaded and previously converted only.
And the final twenty minutes, in which Wallace's posthumous cultural identity is broadly painted as being akin to that of a latter day saint, quite frankly made me feel like throwing up.
On that score, much as with any other, Notorious is crass, calculating and compromised.
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