for strong language, sexuality, some violence and drug use.
as Jimmy Smith Jr/Rabbit
Omar Benson Miller
A solid performance by a very charismatic lead makes 8 Mile a very entertaining and engaging film.
Jimmy Smith Jr. (Eminem), better known as Rabbit, is a down on his luck white rapper in Detroit. In a city where black and white are separated by the 8 Mile, Rabbit's gift is his ability to rap but in a world dominated by black rappers, he's seen only as a joke. He leaves his girlfriend and moves back to the trailer park with his mother (Kim Basinger) and his little sister Lily. His mom is now living with a guy that went to school with Rabbit. At a place called the Shelter every week they hold a rap contest where the object seems to basically be to see if you can put down your competition as bad as possible. Rabbit has the talent to win, but freezes when the time comes. He goes back to work at a pressing plant, all the while determined to rise up from the streets and make something of himself. His friends have the same dreams, but don't seem to want to work for it. A buddy called Wink says he has a way out, but no one is really sure if he can be trusted. And a girl named Alex (Brittany Murphy) shows up one day and somehow influences Rabbit to give it another shot. In his final showdown at the Shelter, Rabbit uses all the rage built up inside him and tears down the competition.
At its basic level 8 Mile is a simple movie about a guy fighting against the odds to get out of the life he has, and into a better one. Rabbit has the talent to make something of himself, but life keeps dragging him down. As events in the movie go on, he starts to realize that the only way he can make something out of his life, is if he does it on his own. Waiting around for someone to help him won't work. He leaves his girlfriend, almost gets fired from his job, walks in on his mom having sex with a guy his age, watches one of his friends shoot himself in the leg, get beaten down by a rival group and watches a girl he likes have sex with someone he thought was his friend. It's a slow burn for Rabbit and by the end he decides that he has to go it alone and to prove a point he goes back to the place he froze, the Shelter, and lays the smack down on his opponents, before walking down the cold streets, alone.
Eminem might be the most controversial artist of my generation. It seems nothing he does is universally liked; some group or another is offended by his lyrics or his statements. But in 8 Mile he has found something that I haven't heard one person disagree with. There is no question he's got charisma coming out of everywhere and his talent on the microphone is second to none. But I'm not about to anoint him the next great actor. He's got what I like to call Courtney Love Syndrome. In The People vs. Larry Flynt the critics were all standing up to call Love the next great thing. But her performance was only so-so. It was just that people didn't expect anything out of her, so when she delivered a solid performance, she was suddenly great. Eminem delivered a solid performance, but it wasn't spectacular. He fits in to another category I created, and that's the Mira Sorvino in Mighty Aphrodite Syndrome. There you had an actress in essentially her first major role and everyone was so blown away by her, they gave her an Academy Award. It was only later that you realized that she wasn't really acting, that's just how she plays all her characters. Eminem wasn't acting in 8 Mile as much as he was playing himself. I'm not going to say that it was easy to play that role, because I know acting isn't as easy as it may look, but his performance again was solid, but I get the feeling that if he acts again, whatever his role may be, whatever his character may be, he'll feel exactly like this one did.
The rest of the cast was solid. I don't know how Kim Basinger continues to look so good after all these years. Mekhi Phifer was pretty good as the best friend. Although I often wonder how he feels about having his name used to rhyme with 'diaper' on the Lose Yourself track. I really liked the look of the film. Instead of having a glossed over feel to it, like a lot of movies starring famous musicians, this one had a gritty, real look to it. There was no apologizing for where people went or what they looked like. It was almost filmed documentary style with a lot of hand-held cameras to make it feel like you were part of the action. And the highlight of the film is definitely the music. While it would help if you were an Eminem fan before seeing the film, you don't really need to be. His lyrics follow the movie perfectly, and anyone who has heard the Lose Yourself track off the Soundtrack knows how true that track is to the film.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall I enjoyed 8 Mile. It kept up a pretty good pace throughout... the performances were solid if not award-worthy... The look and feel of the film made it feel even more real... And the music made the movie come alive... Definitely worth seeing.
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