Up front, so nobody has any questions, Ill tell you I like Eminem. Is he a jackass sometimes? Of course. Are some of the things he says ignorant far beyond Websters dictionary definition of the term? Hell yes. Is he perhaps the brightest shining star of his generation? Very possibly. Anyone who has even a mild interest in rap music can recognize that the man has talent. Talent that he is building on with every record and single and guest appearance he makes. And then came the news, Eminem was making a movie. And we all groaned. He was going the teen pop route. He was a sellout after all. He was nothing better than Brittany or Mariah or Lance Bass. It was horrible. Then details followed. Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential) has signed on to direct. Interesting. He was dropping twenty pounds to play the role. Okay. It would be the story of a rapper coming up in Detroit. Okay, so it was the Eminem story. And then the buzz. The movie worked, it wasnt just a puff piece, and Eminem, though not exactly stretching, could actually act. All the sudden the brightest shining star of his generation just got a little brighter.
And so we heard the single, "Lose Yourself." Maybe the best song of his career, tapping not only into the movie but into what Eminem was trying to say with the movie. Things were getting better, maybe the only problem was the one that Eminem had tried to deal with since "My Name Is" came out all those years ago. Could he live up to his expectations.
Im pleased to say he could. While the story of Jimmy Rabbit Smith Jr. isnt all that far from the story of Marshall Mathers, the story in Glitter wasnt all that far from Mariah Careys. She stunk up the joint, while Mr. Mathers managed to not just hold his own, but bring that same charisma he has on his records to the big screen. Quick overview, Jimmy is a white rapper who lives on the wrong side of Detroits 8 Mile Road, which separates Detroit from some of its slightly lower class suburbs. As a white kid hes rarely taken seriously in the (mostly) black world of rap, but those who believe in him, like his best friend Future (Phifer), are convinced if he shows up at one of the battles at the local club and lets the crowd hear him, they wont see color, theyll see skill. If youve heard Lose Yourself then you know the story, he chokes the first time he goes, but comes back later to prove himself and does. Theres a love story of sorts, a little off kilter, probably very similar to Eminems real life experiences, and yes of course he conquers.
But the real story isnt the story in the movie. Its the story of Eminem maybe actually growing. Much was made of the scene in which he defends a gay character in the movie. After all his gay bashing rhymes, initially I expected this to be a sort of propaganda, and on some level I suppose it is, but Eminem made it feel real, and isnt that the mark of a good actor, to take situations that we initially wouldnt believe and make them believable? Much respect also flows for Basinger, who should never again appear in a movie not directed by Curtis Hanson. There was a time when I would honestly claim that Basingers best performance was as a dead woman in Tom Pettys "Last Dance With Mary Jane" video, but since then she has given two great performances. First in L.A. Confidential, and now in 8 Mile both directed (Im convinced not coincidentally by Hanson). As Jimmys mother she is beaten and raw, and I shouldnt neglect to say, perfect.
We knew Eminem had the charisma. Whens he on screen, any screen, be it Saturday Night Live appearances, videos, (recorded) live shows, or Total Request Live guest shots, you cant help but watch. Its no different on the big screen. Eminem was on literally the biggest stage of his career and he did what he has done on every stage, he owned it. The climactic final battle is a beautiful blend of acting, rapping, and simply owning an audience, both the audience in the club, and the audience watching the movie. We all want to see what Eminem will do next, after 8 Mile it is no longer that Mike Tyson what will he do next, but instead a Jordanesque what impossible will he make possible do next.