8 Mile (***)

Posted on November 9th, 2002 in Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy

Well, it turns out the Eminem can act, too. He does a very solid job of playing a character not unlike himself. The movie doesn’t aspire to philosophical deepness, but it’s also not a “Spice Girls: The Movie”-type of glossy brand polishing, either. My perceptions of Eminem were based on the few of his songs that I heard, the few things I read about him in the press, and the few times I saw him on television.

My opinion of him was mixed, in that he has an interesting musical style, and some of his lyrics are creative, funny, biting, and insightful. But, at the same time, in his off-stage life he seems to be the very definition of a punk-ass moron. There are a couple of possible explanations for this dichotomy (including me misinterpreting the whole thing), but my hope is that the truth is that he is what he appears to be…a smart, creative kid from the tough side of town, who developed both a hard manner and an artistic expression that allowed him to survive and thrive, and now that he’s moving in circles that are less dangerous and oppressive, he’ll learn how to dial down the constant bravado and street attitude. My fear is that he is a semi-talented moron who is being spoon-fed by producers and will be cast aside once his 15 minutes are up.

The good news is that, if that is the case, he could certainly fall back onto acting as a career. 8 Mile was very entertaining, telling a Rocky-like Hollywood fable. In an interesting twist, the movie does not follow the expected arc of that type of film, and instead leaves us somewhere in the middle of the typical movie storyline. Eminem’s character has a test of…well, character…and shows his true mettle. The movie stops there, and does not follow his story to vindication, success, and/or world domination.

**************** SPOILERS AHEAD ****************
To give you an idea of this non-Hollywood ending, the final scene takes place just after Eminem’s character has won a rap battle at a local Detroit club. He is congratulated by his crew, and then walks off into the night to head back to his job at an auto parts manufacturing plant, where he’s asked a fellow employee to cover his shift temporarily so he could compete in the rap showdown. There’s nothing glamorous or triumphant about going back to your metal-stamping shift.

This is the same plant where, during the course of this movie, he has learned to take responsibility for his own work performance, has asked for extra shifts, and has earned the grudging respect of the line boss. I can only imagine the story meetings with studio execs wanting to add a bigger, better ending to this movie. But the Hollywood definition of a bigger, better ending would have also been shallow and false on this movie.

**************** END OF SPOILERS ****************

When this movie ended, I sat and thought about it, and about Eminem’s character. I didn’t get up and head for the exit. I leaned over to tell Marie that I thought it was a really good movie, as she had been worried that she had dragged me to something I didn’t want to see, or that I had not liked. Neither were the case. Eminem had proved to be such a conundrum to me that I was looking forward to seeing this movie and learning more. The movie didn’t make up my mind one way or the other regarding how I feel about Eminem, but it was entertaining, he was good, the story was compelling, and the whole thing ended up being points in his favor, in my estimation.

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