I was moving around IMDB just now trying to sort of fill in the blanks of some random credits that I'd missed in my movie catalog, and I ran across this review of 8 Mile from this college student in NYC. Now, I never really write reviews because everyone's opinions vary distinctly and it seems kind of pointless to try to show them the "magic" of a certain movie if they refuse to see it, or to tell them how horrible it was as though I think that I'm really that much better of a director, writer, or whatever. But after reading such lines as "if you liked this film, you know nothing about film" and so on, I simply couldn't contain myself.
First off, let me start by saying that I in no way respect Eminem as an artist. I personally despise rap and the "culture" that it creates in society full of pumped up punks trying to act tough or "hard", as they struggle in a societal structure that they perpetrate upon themselves. In fewer words: I hate listening to constant bitching and dated slogans about bitches and benjamins. And after hearing about Eminem's wife-beating and all around socially retarded mentality, I wanted less to do with 8 Mile on the probability that he may be receiving a percentage of the ticket sales. But, after a time, I ended up renting it at Blockbuster for the hell of it, at least to give it a chance. I popped it in, and I was all set and ready to hate every minute of it... but ended up sitting through a movie that actually left me with a smile on my face.
For those who've not yet seen the film, I'll give some background of the story. Eminem plays Rabbit, a struggling Detroit freestyle rapper trying desperately to make a name for himself in the bustling Detroit underground music scene. Kim Basinger plays his alcoholic mother, miserable and bitter of where her life has ended up (in a trailer park, barely able to make rent or take care of herself). Mekhi Phifer plays Future, Rabbit's best ally and, in some ways, his father figure; playing the role of the protective, guidance providing, loving role-model. Conflict stirs in Rabbit's life as, through his bouts with stage fright and homelessness, he begins to question his ability to make it in the world of music as he wishes to; nearly becoming content to simply abide life as he knows it. But through his experiences and how he works through his own personal problems, he starts to see his path better and more clearly.
Now, I grew up in a very small town. A farming community in the middle of nowhere, where my nearest neighbors where half a mile away. I hated every minute that I was there and felt trapped in a world there that I didn't feel welcome in or a part of. Aspiring to become a filmmaker when everyone tells you you're an idiot for even thinking of it isn't easy. Which is probably why I related so much with this film. Rabbit's own experiences as well as his mother's criticism of him and his life make him feel trapped within his station of life, feeling as though his own specific voice isn't being heard, and trying desperately to change that. Anyone who doesn't recognize this is someone that I would generally think was lucky enough to not be born into this type of community structure with ideals that conflicted with the generally accepted norm; as it's thoroughly developed throughout the story. And the story... the story develops nicely over time. It never feels rushed or thrown together hastily just to make a movie with the star power of Eminem. That COULD have happened, and it COULD have made a lot of money for everyone involved. Instead, a director was chosen who understands pacing of a story, importance of cinematic elements throughout a story (i.e.: not just putting actors on screen to say their lines and that's it), and who just understands the elements of how to tell a good story on film. They even gathered a supporting cast of actual actors who've proven themselves as true artists within their craft in the past, and didn't just hand off the part to one of the executive producer's nieces or nephews or whatever. Scott Silver's loose adaptation of the life of Eminem was tweaked just enough to skew from Eminem's specific life, and become more universal in it's ability to portray a struggle that millions of artists go through around the world. All of these elements, along with my surprise at the actual acting ability of Eminem, combine to tell a story that feels deeply personal while very universal, and can be related to by more people than simply myself. It tells a story of never settling for what you can get just because it's easier, and that hard work and dedication are the only ways to dig your way out of a perpetual cycle that you may find yourself a part of.
To close, this is by no means the best movie that I've ever seen. Not even close. But that doesn't mean that it's not a prime example of filmmaking at it's best. A movie doesn't have to be the best thing since disco in order to be any good... it simply has to have a purpose and a message, and portray those with clarity and honesty; which this movie accomplishes in spades.
See this movie.
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