As a showcase for white rapper Eminem, this gritty-looking drama has more depth than one might expect and not just because director Curtis Hanson isn't a hack for hire. After all, the talented Vondie Curtis Hall couldn't do a thing with Mariah Carey's ludicrous vanity project GLITTER (2001). Hanson (abetted by cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto) evokes the oppressive atmosphere of rundown neighborhoods like Detroit's 8 Mile, the blighted perimeter between the crumbling city and its suburbs, as well as the day-to-day experience of being nickled and dimed in America, working low-wage jobs and never getting ahead. What's most disappointing is the thoroughly cliched story, a feel-good fable of a young person's determination to ride his or her talent as rooted in music-driven Hollywood concoctions like THE JAZZ SINGER (1927), FLASHDANCE (1983), LIGHT OF DAY (1987), SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER (1977), ROCKY (1976) and, yes, GLITTER, as Eminem's own experiences. 1995: Jimmy Smith Jr. (Eminem), better known as Rabbit, wants to be a rapper, but his life is falling apart. He's lost his old job and has to take a grinding new gig at the despised factory where welfare mothers fulfill their workfare assignments, and he chokes at the Friday-night rap battle where he hopes to establish some street credibility. Worse, he breaks up with his girlfriend (Taryn Manning) and leaves her their apartment and his car, forcing him to move back in with his hard-drinking, irresponsible mother, Stephanie (Kim Basinger). Aging sexpot Stephanie lives in a cramped, shabby trailer with her new boyfriend (Michael Shannon) a redneck layabout scarcely older than her son and angelic daughter (Chloe Greenfield). Most of Rabbit's posse Cheddar Bob (Evan Jones), Sol George (Omar Benson Miller) and DJ Iz (De'Angelo Wilson) are in the same boat, broke and living with their moms; only Future (Mekhi Phifer) has achieved some minor renown MCing rap battles. But Rabbit wants more, which makes him susceptible to the blandishments of slippery neighborhood hustler Wink (Eugene Byrd), who claims he's working his connections to get Rabbit free studio time to make a demo. He's also distracted by Alex (Brittany Murphy), a local girl also set on moving out, by any means necessary. Rabbit's eventual triumph is never in doubt, and the scenes in which he shelters his sister and defends a gay factory worker smack of calculated attempts to rehabilitate Eminem's reputation for misogyny and homophobia. But overall, he's a credible screen presence, not precisely charismatic, but far from an embarrassment.
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- Released: 2002
- Rating: R
- Review: As a showcase for white rapper Eminem, this gritty-looking drama has more depth than one might expect and not just because director Curtis Hanson isn't a hack for hire. After all, the talented Vondie Curtis Hall couldn't do a thing with Mariah Carey… (more)