IS THIS Jimmy or Eminem?
photo: Courtesy of Tatrafilm
Starring: Eminem, Kim Basinger, Brittany Murphy, Mekhi Phifer, Evan Jones
Directed by: Curtis Hanson
Running time: 110 min
Rating: 5 out of 10
BARBARA Streisand's perplexed look at the Oscar ceremony this year when she was giving away the award for best song said it all: 8 Mile is not the kind of mainstream Hollywood entertainment that usually gets nominated for an Academy Award. When the song Lose Yourself won, she seemed relieved that its creator, Eminem, did not come to receive the prize himself.
Marshall Mathers, aka Eminem, is too controversial a figure for most people to feel indifferent about. The rapper is a regular presence in the media, thanks to his homophobic statements and conflicts with his family and opponents. So what makes 8 Mile interesting to watch is Eminem's portrayal of someone much like himself, a poor white boy who works in a stamping factory and aspires to be a rap star.
8 Mile is a textbook example of the simplest structure in story telling: introduce the hero; show his environment, family, and friends; explain his problem or dilemma; make him win (and never lose) in the end. It is not very inventive but it works because we have all been fed the Slim Shady (Eminem's rap persona) story long enough, so the plot and its ending are not too surprising.
Jimmy Smith, played by Eminem, is a young man who lives in a trailer park with his unemployed mother (Kim Basinger) and a younger sister. His neighbourhood is separated from the rich, white part of Detroit by a road called 8 Mile, symbolising the social segregation. Jimmy decides that his only way to escape the ghetto will be by making it as a white guy in the world of black rap music.
The questions that run through one's head throughout the film is how authentic is the story and is Eminem actually acting or just being himself? 8 Mile is not supposed to be autobiographical, yet there are several parallels with Eminem's life, so it is almost impossible not to associate the character with the actor. But no matter how much truth there is in the story, it is a remarkable sociological study of American hip-hop culture.
The best scenes of the movie are Jimmy's freestyle rap performances, either on stage, or while waiting for lunch at work. The hip-hop battles in which Jimmy has to prove that he is more than a wannabe MC are compelling: The rappers have to improvise the lyrics on stage, adjust them to the sounds produced by the DJ, and beat their competitors with the content in only 45 seconds.
The language used in the songs and throughout the film is extremely vulgar but can be justified as part of hip-hop culture. It pays off that the director did not try to soften it.
If you happen to understand Slovak, try to read the subtitles. They give the film extra humour as the translator was trying but failing to keep up with the ghetto slang.
14. Apr 2003 at 0:00 | Saša Petrášová