Maybe it would have been a better movie if director/producer Curtis Hanson (LA Confidential, Wonder Boys) wrote 8 Mile instead of Scott Silver (The Mod Squad). The movie lacks depth and character development, instead relying on the 'triumphant underdog' theme to carry the dramatic progression. As a friend of mine remarked, "It's Karate Kid with rappers."
When asking for my ticket at the box office, I requested to see Eminem, failing to remember the title of the movie. That pretty much says it all right there -- why I, and I'm sure most people, want to see 8 Mile. And you know what, Emimem was very good at playing himself, and damn cute on the big screen. I very much enjoyed watching him for the just shy of two-hour film.
The film opens up with Jimmy Smith Jr. AKA Rabbit (Eminem) in the bathroom of a warehouse where his best friend, Future (Mekhi Phifer), hosts weekly battles. Rabbit is warming up. The way it is shot, pouncing a little on his feet, looking in the mirror, his face framed by his hood, it looks like he is warming up for a boxing match. I guess he really is battling. Rabbit is called out on stage to face a crowd full of blacks who jeer and make fun of him. He lives up to their low expectations and chokes. Like the beginning of the Karate Kid, the man can't fight. An embarrassed Rabbit runs out of the battle and his friends chase after him. He changes clothes from a trash bag behind a dumpster, explaining to his friends that he and his girlfriend, Janeane (Taryn Manning) broke up, and he left her with their apartment, the car, and her pregnant belly. That, by the way, is all we ever get from that story. Manning is in about 2 scenes, having maybe a total of five lines in the entire movie. It serves no purpose. But okay, the movie isn't about that. Fine.
So Rabbit is forced to move back in with his slutty, alcoholic, unemployed mother (Kim Basinger) in her rundown trailer. This is where my favorite scene of the movie comes in. Rabbit is outside with Future working on his mother's broken down car (which she'd given him as a "present" for his birthday). His mother is inside fucking a redneck he went to high school with as they blare "Sweet Home Alabama." Rabbit and Future begin to rap over Sweet Home with their own lyrics, which are hilarious -- "I live in a trailer, mom I'm coming home to you." (That line doesn't even do it justice, I honestly want to see the movie again just for that scene). But once again, the movie is not about the mother-boyfriend story line either.
It's not about the trollop, Alex (Brittany Murphy), he falls for. Who also fucks his supposed friend Wink (Eugene Byrd), who has 6 of the rival gang jump him after Rabbit kicks Wink's ass. I guess he can fight after all. This is around plot point three, where Rabbit reaches his low. But he doesn't go after them and physically kick their ass, he decides to battle them. And like Karate Kid, he is on stage getting ripped on (with rhymes), and just like you root for Daniel (Ralph Macchio) to pull the crane move, you cheer for Rabbit to bust out the best unforeseeable rhymes, which he does.
I know I made 8 Mile sound really cheesy by comparing it to Karate Kid, but I found it to be really cheesy. Yeah, the raps were really good, the film was at times humorous, but personally, I wanted more character depth and development. They were interesting characters, but we got nothing from them. And there were no redeemable female characters. Even if the movie wasn't about that, and the focus was really the rapping and the battles, the character development of the women was especially lacking.
Another friend of mine, who actually really enjoyed the movie, thought that it was more figurative and not so literal, that Rabbit just always thought in rhyme, which is a cool concept. My friend posed the idea that the scene at the lunch truck at his work where he raps with some of the other workers, wasn't real, that it was what Rabbit wanted to say but couldn't. So when I looked at it like that, I was like, 'Okay, that's really cool.' But I don't think that was the case. Alex was there, she saw him rap and talked to him about it afterwards, so I go back to my original point, that it was literal, and it was cheesy.
The raps are good, Eminen is hotter than ever on the big screen, and it was entertaining, but it could have been so much more.