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8 Mile movie poster

8 Mile Movie Review

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In yet another singer-to-actor transformation, Eminem does the impossible and actually delivers a moving and believable drama.

8 Mile is about a wannabe rapper who is going nowhere fast; he has walked out on his girlfriend, is living in his mom's trailer, and makes next to nothing at his lousy job. His friends don't seem to understand the bleakness of their lives, but he is starting to realize that he needs to get out of this place before it sucks him in forever. Yes, it sounds like Marshall "Eminem" Mather's real life, and in many respects it is, but if a non-actor is going to star in a movie, than he better not stray too far from what he knows. Harrison Ford as a Russian submarine captain? I don't think so. Eminem as a rapper? That might work.

Universal Pictures gambled with 8 Mile. Here, you have director Curtis Hanson, the man behind the award-winning L.A. Confidential, doing a movie that features a rapper in his acting debut? You have a cast made up of Oscar-winner Kim Basinger (for L.A. Confidential, no less) and other recognizable actors such as Brittaney Murphy and Mekhi Phifer? Potentially, 8 Mile could have been a real waste of talent and money, because are the masses really going to flock to see a rapper do a story about himself? If only his fans show up, the movie isn't going to make much money, even if Eminem is a popular icon nowadays.

50 million dollars. 8 Mile made 50 million dollars in its opening weekend. I went to go see it on opening day, and it was sold out at least five hours in advance. The people wanted to see 8 Mile? Why? Why? Universal Pictures has pulled off the most impressive marketing campaign this year. The trailers were moving, the television ads were moving, and what helps more than including some early hype about Oscar nominations for Eminem?

8 Mile is Eminem's movie. Despite the director, despite the costars, the movie is about Eminem. People are going to 8 Mile in masses not because they are fans of Eminem - if it earned $50 million in its opening weekend, a good portion of those people are probably not Eminem fans (I surely am not - I can't stand most rap "music") - but because they want to see if Eminem actually can act. Supposedly, the critics are saying he can act, but how often are critics right?

Eminem does do a good job. He is believable, he is moving, and when he starts talking fast, he really starts talking fast. He really finds his niche in the screenplay and story, trying to convey how he became what he is (who a lot of people consider a crude and insensitive loser). He is acting with a passion because he is defending himself. He knows that the movie's audiences are looking at him skeptically, trying to figure out just what is so great about this guy. Why is he so popular, when he skulks around and makes fun of his mom and talks about "faggots." In 8 Mile, he tackles these issues, not completely directly, but definitely not discretely, either; in one scene, he sticks up for a gay guy who is being harassed. There is also an underlying theme that he loves his mother but doesn't respect her, and just hates the life that he has been brought up in. Are these his true feelings? Who knows, but Eminem is pretty convincing on screen.

His performance is not worth an Oscar nomination, though. Though he is entertaining to watch on screen, he just doesn't stray far enough away from himself to be considered for any kind of award. He talks the talk and walks the walk, and skulks around a lot looking depressed, but is this really that much different than what he does usually? No, it's not. In fact, Hanson is smart in not giving Eminem gigantic dialogue sequences; there are many scenes where Hanson focuses more Eminem's facial expressions than his actual speaking ability. Eminem really shines here, showing the anguish of his character, but again, is that the anguish of his character or the anguish of the real person, Matthew Mathers.

People are so obsessed with seeing Eminem act that they may forget that there is a story around the character. Really, it isn't all that impressive. It's good enough, and it's somewhat entertaining, but put any other actor in the lead role and the screenplay and film would hardly show up on radar. It is interesting to see the rap scene, but there are some dull parts and some sequences that just are not anything worth noting. 8 Mile is well done, but it is not an exceptional drama by any means of the imagination.

8 Mile's success is based on a lot of hype and the distraction that Eminem brings to the table, but when all is said and done, it is worth a lot of the acclaim. It isn't a brilliant film, but compared to any other singer-to-actor film, it is superb.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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