Review by Paul Stathakis | 2002

The pain is in his lyrics

“Look, if you had one shot, one opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted, for one moment, would you capture it or just let it slip?”, asks Eminem in his hit song “Lose Yourself”. Director Curtis Hanson focuses on that question in his new drama “8 Mile”, about a young Detroit rapper with dreams of making it in the hip-hop world.

The film stars Marshall Mathers (aka Eminem) as Jimmy Smith Jr. Jimmy (better known as Rabbit) is driven by anger and has a whole list of problems: he can’t keep a job, freezes at the mic during an underground rap battle, gets dumped by his pregnant girlfriend, and is forced to move back in with his mother Stephanie (Kim Basinger) and sister Lily. However, his luck could change when his best friend Future (Mekhi Phifer) offers him a chance to prove himself at an under-ground event.

The competition in “8 Mile” is fierce, but Eminem manages to steal the show by giving a surprisingly outstanding performance. The tagline on the film’s reflective poster reads, “Every moment is another chance” and “8 Mile” is Eminem’s chance to prove himself as an actor. And he does. Often dressed in loose-fitting pants, puffy jackets, and a small hat, Jimmy cruises around town with his friends and possesses a sleek “bad boy” attitude that is simply perfect for this kind of film. A rebellious-type character, Jimmy is not afraid to speak his mind or start unnecessary brawls with thugs.

When director Curtis Hanson helmed the 1997 acclaimed crime drama “L.A. Confidential”, he received positive criticism. Comparing “8 Mile” to “L.A. Confidential” is a “faux pas”, but I did notice something similar to both films: Hanson always adds a more dramatic side to his movies by slipping in at least one sad and touching scene. There is one thought-provoking scene in which a 4×4 pulls up in front of Jimmy’s mother’s crummy little trailer. Jimmy, who is outside with his little sister, tells her to go inside. A gang that Jimmy once roughed, steps out of the SUV, and then leaves him lying bruised and bloody in the middle of the road. There is also a heartbreaking scene involving Jimmy’s girlfriend, Alex (Brittany Murphy).

Okay Eminem fans, do not worry: Mr. Mathers grabs the mic towards the end and challenges a ruthless rapper to an astonishing rap duel and, yes, his lyrics flow like poetry.

Are there any problems with “8 Mile” or is it a flawless film? To be quite honest, disappointment finds its way in the script. Don’t get me wrong, “8 Mile” is a beautiful to watch: the lighting is perfect, the composition of Hanson’s shots is dead on, and the editing is fast-paced (as it should be). But the dialogue is rather weak and lacks originality. Luckily, Eminem is the main attraction here: his onscreen presence, his music, and most importantly, his underground rap battles. Eminem fans say that he often speaks from the heart in every one of his songs. Maybe the lyrics are supposed to serve as the exciting part of the script? I’d like to think that, but music isn’t the focus. “8 Mile” focuses on one man’s life and all the obstacles he must overcome to meet his true desire and to become the next hot act to top the music charts.

Bottom line: Whether he records a hit or hits the big screen, Eminem has proven his range as an artist. I won’t say I loved “8 Mile”, but I won’t say I hated it either. Curtis Hanson provides great visual material and Eminem still manages to steal the spotlight. He is cool and that’s how audiences will perceive him while exiting this film. “I lost myself” in the last twenty minutes of “8 Mile”, because it’s entertaining and satisfying and, basically, it’s Eminem saying, “I didn’t have it easy, but I made it and I have Hanson to thank.”


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