I posted part of this review on a similar cafe thread last night, so apologies to those who have already read it.
I just got back from seeing this movie. I have to say that I did not know much about Eminem, except a couple of his more unavoidable hits. I’ve never paid much attention to rap music or hip-hop. I’m an old school metal head and classic rock fan. I grew up on Black Sabbath and AC/DC and Led Zeppelin. I like music with guitars in it.
The only reason I went to this is because it was a part of my job. I work with Disabled people. On friday nights I have a client with mild CP and MR who likes to go to movies. (Hey, it beats flipping burgers) This guy is a huge Eminem fan who has been dying to see this movie for ages. So I took him tonight.
I expected nothing from this movie. I expected to see a badly acted, formulaic, “Cool As Ice” style crapfest with lots of lousy rap songs.
To my great surprise, I liked it quite a bit. It is flawed. many of the supporting characters are just hackneyed cliches, and it is somewhat formulaic and predictable, but Em himself is quite engaging. (I also liked Mekhi Pheifer’s performance in the film)
I don’t know much about Eminem’s alleged homophobia and/or misogyny, but there was none of that in this film. The scene where he defends a gay coworker ("…he’s gay, you’re a faggot.") is not as contradictory as it may seem to read about it. He is using the term ironically, divorcing it from its literal meaning and turning it inside out so as to disparage the homophobe. This kind of “flipping” is characteristic of the verbal duels portrayed in the movie. The scene does not seem cynical or contrived. It works with the flow of the movie and Eminem seems genuine and sincere in how he plays it. I am not a person who has any tolerance for gay bashing. I don’t know what Em has said in the past about gay people, but in the MOVIE, at least he did not seem homophobic.
In fact Em mostly comes off as pretty soft spoken and mild throughout the movie. The scenes with his little sister are surprisingly touching and sincere.
His rage explodes through his raps, which are raw and visceral, but (at least in the movie) don’t seem hateful or violent.
The best scenes in the movie by far are those involving the brutal rap “battles” which Em participates in at a local club. These contests showcase some amazingly nimble-witted extemporaneous rhyming in a venue where verbal acuity and intelligence is valued more than guns and machismo.
I especially liked the final battle of the movie, which was handled in a very clever and satisfying way.
And I really liked the music. I cannot overstate what an extraordinary statement this is for me. I HATE rap. I HATE hip-hop.
But this Eminem is just…different. There is something sort of mesmerizing about the way he uses words and rhythms. I spent several years trying to be a professional musician and songwriter. I know a lot about music, I know a lot about songwriting, and I know talent when I hear it. This kid is no dummy. There is some authentic genius in what he does with this genre. I don’t know exactly what he has said about women and gays in the past. It is my understanding that much of it was intended to be symbolic or hyperbolic.Maybe he really is a misogynist, homophobic thug. I don’t know. He doesn’t come across like that in the movie.
I think it says something about the movie, (and Em himself) that a guy like me, who is from a different generation, who loathes rap music, and who knew next to nothing about Eminem left the theater thoroughly entertained and seriously contemplating purchasing some of Eminem’s CD’s.