"8 Mile" Review

Title: 8 Mile 
Director: Curtis Hanson 
Starring: Eminem, Kim Basinger, Brittany Murphy, Mekhi Phifer 
Studio: Universal Pictures 
Genre(s): Drama 
Rated: R (For strong language, sexuality, some violence and drug use)

For many years films that were meant to be star vehicles for singers were normally considered safe, predictable, and easy to sell. From the Elvis Presley movies to the *snickers* Brittany Spears movie, most of these movies are not something you watch with a critical eye because they were meant to sell a star rather then to sell a story. As such even the singers themselves don’t get to shine much because everything is tailor made for them to look good and sell a few more records. With that in mind “8 Mile” is a bit of a surprise: A star vehicle for rapper Eminem that is actually daring and bold. The story stars Eminem as Jimmy “B-Rabbit” Smith Jr. as a young white man trying to become a professional rapper.

This is easier said then done because he lives in the worst parts of Detroit, has to take a car maintenance job that he hates to support himself, and in an odd twist he gets little respect from street rappers based on the fact that he is white. Actually, one of my close friends despises Eminem because he feels that if he weren’t white he might not sell the amount of records he has. I only bring this up to prove that the claims made in this film are probably not too far off from the truth. Anyway, Rabbit lives a lonely life hanging out with violent friends and trying to take care of his mother and daughter. He is a nice kid but his abusive mother (played by Academy Award-winner Kim Basinger) raised him to think he was worthless, and still makes that claim.

Because his options are low Rabbit spends most of his time getting into rap battles. I’m not personally familiar with what these are, but according to the movie they are sort of like glorified verbal assault battles that gets so intense it could be it’s own sport...or something like that. Alright, so I’m going to level with you and say that while I own all of Eminem’s albums I’m not really into the whole hip-hop scene, so some of the scenes I see in this film are like looking into a different culture. These rap scenes are intense and emotionally challenging, but I ultimately care less for them then I do the rest of the movie, which basically follows a guy who could be a good guy if his circumstances weren’t stacked against him.

While I don’t feel this movie ever intended to make a social commentary of any kind I find the movie does an excellent job of stressing how living without money tends to be a major motivation for the crummy living conditions many of these characters find themselves in. Rabbit deserves a better job then the one he has, but what choice does he have? Options are low and he’s got a daughter to support. In fact his daughter is a minor character but an important one. She is normally secluded and withdrawn, but she see’s the abuse that goes on between Rabbit and his mother. In a strange way she’s reliving the terrible childhood he’s been so desperately trying to get away from.

“8 Mile” is not only an interesting story but a compelling movie in general. It was directed by Academy Award-nominated director Curtis Hanson who is most famous for directing the police mystery “L.A. Confidential.” Normally someone of his status wouldn’t pick up a movie where the star controlled more of the film then he would. The fact that he saw something in this script says a lot about the screenplay. It also says a lot about Eminem that he didn’t attempt to tone down the mood of the film by making it more mainstream friendly. The main character is likable but obviously flawed. It’s rare to see that sort of honesty in a star vehicle. “8 Mile” is a movie that deserves to be called good on it’s own terms and sends a strong message to other singers that making a good movie is better for them in the long run rather then making an easy sell.