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 singers film breakthrough (he has appeared
in Snoop Dogg and Dr Dres 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
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 years
winner, A Beautiful Mind, while the films director, Curtis
Hanson, flirted with Oscar success for his highly-acclaimed LA
The film co-stars Kim Basinger (who took the Best Supporting
Actress statuette when she appeared in LA Confidential), as Eminems
mother, and the rapidly emerging Brittany Murphy, as his girlfriend.
It will undoubtedly be one of the biggest talking points of this
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: "Ive worked with novices
before, but not in a starring role. He knew literally nothing
about the process but hes the definition of the term quick
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
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
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'.