8 MILE (Curtis Hanson, 2002)

 

Eminem gives one of the best singer-to-actor performances in “8 Mile”. In fact, he may be the best that the 2000s decade saw. Not only is it a very calm and collective portrayal, but its raw and riveting; a man stuck in so many situations that the pain is bruising in the most subtle of moments. Many can say that the performance hits way too close to home, but doesn’t that draw out the best of performances? Check out Mickey Rourke’s extraordinary performance in “The Wrestler”, for example. What makes both of these performances so great is that the actors use personal demons to orchestrate, communicate, and dig deep within the characters they are bringing forth. With Eminem’s powerful performance, the soul of Curtis Hanson’s stylish indie-inspired drama scores – its conflicting story rubbing off very believable, and with humor seaming from the complete reality of human action.

Hanson directs “8 Mile” with strong, sometimes dreading, moods of grit and unease. Every scene feels to be on shaky ground, on the verge (like its flawed character) of breaking. The film is a salute to the sometimes violent world of Detroit, where everyone seems to be used to living a life of violence, sex, and drugs that they feel they are living right; not realizing their dreams are only quick imaginary thoughts instead of the goals one would normally try to set for themselves. Hanson makes these streets real, with people whose social morals are apparently scattered in a vast, empty playground where adults can’t seem to find their personal path to walk on and breathe like they really want to. And while Hanson studies the characters in these many ways, he also opens up the door to show us the great underground rap battles of the mid-90s. Jimmy (Eminem) has a dream to rap, yet can’t seem to act on it. He flees the stage in fright during his battles, causing him to fear acting on his dreams. He feels trapped on his journey to achieve his future, unlike the many other’s who can’t seem to grasp onto it. Whether Jimmy makes it to achieve his dream or not, is best left, as the film does make it, unsaid. “8 Mile” has a very unconventional ending that Hanson constructs to make the viewer ask questions concerning whether the dreams of the people in this neighborhood are either lost, or stuck in a state of fear.

“8 Mile” is an effective film, with director Curtis Hanson examining life as much as the many lifestyles the film faithfully depicts. Alongside Eminem’s captivating performance, there is a supporting cast that is absolutely exceptional. Kim Basinger brings humanity to Jimmy’s flawed mother, even if her humanity is based on the shattered perception that she must find a man to help feed her kids. She is a tragic character, blinded by the complete truth that she is, really, a mother detached completely from what is expected from her. As Jimmy’s friends: Mekhi Phifer, Omar Miller, and Evan Jones shadow the life of Jimmy with a great amount of realism. It’s easy to understand that these guys are close, even though they fight and argue all the time. They still are there for one another. (I especially love the scene where Miller’s character Sol George drives Jimmy to work early in the morning. It’s a very human moment; funny, yet sad.) And topping the cast off are Brittany Murphy as Jimmy’s sluttish girlfriend, Eugene Byrd as his friend who promises more than he can make, Anthony Mackie as Jimmy’s rap battle rival who is more sensitive that he socially projects, Michael Shannon as Jimmy’s mother’s annoying boyfriend, and Taryn Manning as Jimmy’s pregnant ex-girlfriend bent on being the stereotype the neighborhood seems to lay on her shoulders.

A compelling (and entertaining) examination of human courage and personal sacrifice, “8 Mile” is filled with flawed characters that project the torn dreams of the human soul, and projects this with complete authenticity. The film’s terrific final scene ends the film on the right, powerful note with Eminem’s own Oscar-winning song “Lose Yourself” swelling up in the background. It’s a fantastic song that pays its dues to Jimmy, a man that rises partially above his demons, and came one step closer to rising above his fear.

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~ by jerkwoddjh on May 11, 2009.

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