8 Mile - dir. Curtis Hanson - 2002 - USA
It's sort of a chore to bring myself to a film like 8 Mile. In fact, I haven't actually seen the film since it came out in theatres and played (thankfully for free) at my school. A friend of mine and I had a long discussion recently about rap stars and our intense dislike for them. While there are different genres of rap, there's a unifying quality to nearly every rapper working today shares; this is there shameless and unironic sense of vanity (this quality lends itself, too, to artists like Jennifer Lopez, as well). Rap songs these days are never really about anything; there're simply platforms for self-promotion, maturabation, and vulgarity. For some reason, speaking in the third-person about yourself has become the norm, and if that's not okay, at least have someone announce your name at some point in your song. This is even the case with hip-hop artists that I genuinely respect. For some reason Wyclef Jean, of the Fugees, turns a song about Shakira's hips not lying into a song about refugees. Jay-Z turned a Tupac metaphor of his "girlfriend" (read, his gun) into a song about his quite literal girlfriend Beyoncé. While rap music seems to have turned into an artless money-making business (and while 8 Mile is certainly a bad film), I find myself struck with the lack of this vanity and this vulgarity in 8 Mile.
Based on his real life (though very much dramatized in a Hollywood sense), Eminem plays Jimmy, your very typical introverted artist who just wants to rhyme, but life keeps getting in the way. Even before it's brought up, there's a tournament that hovers over the beginning of the film; it may not be explicitly mentioned, but you know it's going to happen. This is to be the arena where Jimmy can shine and prove everyone wrong. If you don't know how it ends, you haven't seen enough films. Perhaps 8 Mile's lack of vanity comes from director Curtis Hanson, a director who, on a few occasions, makes you forget that his screenplays are infested with clichés. There's a "rawness" in 8 Mile that never truly seems authethic, yet still manages to have you thanking someone in Hollywood for not making this into a vain two-hour long adaptation of a rap song. Really, the best scene in the movie is the sex scene between Jimmy and the boss' daughter (Brittany Murphy). It's never glamourized, not the least bit sexy, and our hero finishes in just a few minutes. Seriously, what rapper would agree to play a character who blows his load in less than five minutes? It's also a bit strange that a rapper like Eminem could outact both of his trained costars, Murphy and (especially) Kim Basinger as his mother. I will probably never see the 50 Cent vehicle Get Rich or Die Trying, as I find 50 Cent to be far more disgusting and narcissistic a creature than Eminem. And while I cannot even begin to call 8 Mile a good film, in retrospect, there's something genuinely refreshing about a film that strips away the now-staple unironic egotism that so plagues the world of hip-hop music.