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8 Mile - Preview & US reaction



Preview by: Jack Foley

THE Eminem bubble shows no sign of bursting just yet. Not content with dominating the headlines within the music press and selling bucket-loads of singles and albums to boot, the controversial rapper is now setting his sights on the film industry - and generating a certain amount of pre-release.

8 Mile marks the singer’s film breakthrough (he has appeared in Snoop Dogg and Dr Dre’s The Wash, by way of a cameo) and tells the story of a young white rapper from Detroit, who tussles with his mum while channelling his rage into angry lyrics and hit songs.

But this is not the Slim Shady story - no matter how close to home the material seems, as producer, Brian Grazer is adamant that this is no biopic.

The presence of Eminem merely lends authenticity to a film which ‘covers our understanding of hip-hop’ and the results, according to Grazer, could well land the rapper a coveted Oscar nomination, who describes his performance as being comparable to that of Sylvester Stallone in Rocky (an Academy favourite).

For sure, the singer is keeping good company. Grazer, himself, is no stranger to the Academy, having also produced last year’s winner, A Beautiful Mind, while the film’s director, Curtis Hanson, flirted with Oscar success for his highly-acclaimed LA Confidential.

The film co-stars Kim Basinger (who took the Best Supporting Actress statuette when she appeared in LA Confidential), as Eminem’s mother, and the rapidly emerging Brittany Murphy, as his girlfriend.

It will undoubtedly be one of the biggest talking points of this year’s Regus London Film Festival and was received with a round of applause when it debuted at the Toronto Film Festival earlier in the year, where it was screened as a ‘work in progress’.

The film follows one week in the life of Jimmy, a talented ‘freestyler’, who dreams of escaping his damaged hometown, while struggling to cope with his feelings for mum and muse.

According to Hanson, Eminem is a talent just waiting to be unearthed. The director put the singer through a vigorous six-week rehearsal period in preparation for the film, during which he slowly rotated other cast members. He also called on him to lose weight and change his hair colour.

He told Entertainment Weekly: "I’ve worked with novices before, but not in a starring role. He knew literally nothing about the process but he’s the definition of the term ‘quick study’."

Murphy, too, is full of praise for her co-star, citing the main characters he portrays in his songs as evidence that the guy can create any persona he chooses, while critics who have caught an early glimpse of his performance have praised the charisma and competence of the relative novice.

The movie is also said to represent a different side to the singer, who is idolised by millions of fans, but is seen by some as a callous misogynist and homophobe. There is a scene where he stands up for the rights of a gay co-worker.

Hanson has nothing but praise for his lead performer and talks passionately about the reasons he agreed to take on the project, describing it as a story about people who are trying to figure out how to live their lives in a city that used to promise a future to everyone, but which now promises nothing.

The self-confessed music lover has always been interested in the cultural background to hip-hop and feels that the film will provide people with a better understanding of where that style of music came from and of the people to whom it gave a voice.
And talking of Eminem, he added that the star gave him ‘total commitment and respect’, honouring the story that ‘we were both there to tell’.

The film will be featured as part of the London Film Festival this weekend, while it is due for a nationwide UK release on January 17, 2003. Critics in America, meanwhile, got to have their say this weekend. Scroll down for more...

What the US critics said...

8 Mile opened in America on November 8 to generally favourable reviews. Entertainment Weekly led the praise, awarding it an A-, and raving that 'what makes Eminem a true star in '8 Mile' isn't just the mesmerizing urgency of his raps. It's the power of what he doesn't say', while Hollywood Reporter described it as, merely, 'a terrific movie'.

The New York Times opined that 'the movie is a success on its own terms because the director doesn't condescend to pop music', while Rolling Stone declared that 'Eminem wins by a knockout' and awarded it four stars out of five.

Salon felt that 8 Mile was 'memorable — even if we've seen it all before', while Village Voice referred to it as 'a canny, and largely successful, attempt to broaden the star's appeal'.

Of a more mixed reaction was LA Weekly, which felt that 'beneath its streetwise surface, 8 Mile lays on the old Hollywood hokum', while Popmatters suggested that it 'might benefit from checking its source'.

Given that there were very few genuinely negative reviews, however, both Eminem and Hanson have every reason to feel satisfied. Talk of Oscar nominations may be a little premature, though, as Planet Sick-Boy stated that 'while it's certainly no Oscar contender, the film is admirable for merely not sucking. It awarded the film six out of ten.

Perhaps the most scathing was Slant Magazine, which felt it was 'more tolerable than Purple Rain but it's every bit as obvious and redundant', while TV Guide felt that 'Eminem's a credible screen presence, not precisely charismatic, but far from an embarrassment'. They awarded it two and a half out of five.

Back to the positive reviews, though, and E! Online stated that '8 Mile goes the distance, and it proves that not every musician turned actor goes down a road paved with Glitter', before awarding it a credible B, while the Chicago Tribune draws this round-up to a close, by awarding it three out of four stars and declaring that the film is 'sometimes moving and thrilling'.

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