‘8 Miles’ gives honest portrayal of young Detroit artist

Laura Maggio - Staff Writer

The theater was still packed on a rainy Saturday night for the second weekend of “8 Mile.” No surprise considering Oscar-winning director Curtis Hanson’s movie, starring rapper Eminem, brought in $51.4 million dollars in its first weekend.
With a $50 million budget given to the director of “L.A. Confidential” and “Wonder Boys” and Eminem received a reported $40 million check for the film, it’s a good thing the cinema was packed. Although Rated R, the dark cinema rows were loitered with pre-teenie boppers.
What a surprise that the rapper can act well enough also. Loosely based on Eminem’s life growing up mean in working class Detroit, Mich., the film is about the start of an aspiring young white rapper among the social forces of race, talent and family.
Kim Basinger (“L.A. Confidential”) and Brittany Murphy (“Girl, Interupted” and “King of the Hill’s” Luanne) were complimenting characters, revolving around Eminem’s character Jimmy Smith, Jr.
Basinger plays Jimmy’s mother Stephanie and Murphy is his love interest, Alex. A steamy scene between Eminem and Murphy was interesting to see, especially as the two are now reported to be seeing one another.
It was interesting seeing Eminem act. Granted, he is playing himself, his character seems believable enough to make the film not entirely autobiographical.
“It’s about the world Eminem came from – the Detroit hip-hop scene,” Curtis Hanson said in an Entertainment Weekly interview.
Can Slim Shady’s character, Jimmy Smith sound any more generic? How about Jon Doe? His alter-ego rap name in the film is Bunny Rabbit, which sounds traditionally ‘whiter’ and cuter than Slim Shady.
A great aspect of the movie was how it was just one week in Jimmy’s life. Starting as a ‘rap battle’ and ending where the viewer would least expect.
“8 Mile” is known to Detroit natives as the city limit, but on a much deeper level, it symbolizes the psychological dividing line that keeps Smith, Jr. from where and who he hopes to be. Cinematically it is also a boundary between White and Black, the have’s and have-not’s, if you profess to be a Sociology buff.
Trailer parks and ‘white trash’ are where Jimmy hails from, but not where he wants to end up. Another parallel to his “real” life is that he uses these shortcomings to his advantage in his raps.
Rhyming against native Detroit rappers in battles that take place in shelters and underground locations are true as well. Eminem took Director Curtis Hanson to Detroit and showed him his roots. Another interesting fact, 22 of the 32 major roles in the film were played by actual natives of Detroit.
The movie has a soundtrack which includes original music by Eminem and Dr. Dre, who discovered Eminem and brought him to Interscope Records. Also on the rap soundtrack are Jay-Z, Nas, Kid Rock and Xzibit, who also find themselves in the right film.
You can hear a brief synopsis of the movie in Shady’s new hit single, “Loose Yourself,” which you can find playing at least a hundred times daily on your Top-40 radio station.
Shady describes one of the battles in the film, rapping, “He’s the only white competitor / More or less the only white face in the room / Handed a microphone / He freezes / Too scared to rap out a syllable.”
The sight of Eminem up on stage, cut off from the antic rush of his words, is no small shock, but the paradoxical effect is to make the audience lean in all the more, desperate to see and feel what’s going on inside his head.
As of the film’s opening week, Nov. 6, E minem clinched the number one movie, single and soundtrack on the Billboard charts. Nobody has done that since J-Lo last year.