8 Mile (2002)

Genre: Drama | Age: 17+
8-mile-film-review-by-arthur-taussig

AGE RECOMMENDATIONS New Search

Ages 4 & Under – No
Ages 5 to 7 – No
Ages 8 to 9 – No
Ages 10 to 12 – No
Ages 13 to 15 – No
Ages 15 to 17 – With Guidance

8 Mile (2002)

DRAMA: (2002, R.) (Universal Pictures) (1 hr, 58 min) In the seedy ruins of 1995 Detroit, Jimmy Smith Jr., an aspiring rap artist, freezes at a rap competition which only adds to his depression – working in a stamping plant after losing a job in a pizza place, giving his car to his pregnant girlfriend Janeane and leaving her, and he’s forced to move back home to his trailer trash mother Stephanie and her mentally unstable boyfriend Greg Buehl. His only touchstone with love and humanity is his little sister, Lilly. On the street, where he’s known as Rabbit, his mostly black friends, Cheddar Bob, Sol George, and DJ Iz, try to support him because they realize his talent, but to no avail as Jimmy flounders through life on a constantly downward spiral – he’s seduced by beautiful Alex who sees him as a way out of poverty, a friend accidentally shoots himself in the leg while try to protect him, he’s beaten because he beat a man he caught having sex with Alex, and so on. Jimmy is often protected by his best friend, Future, of emcees the contests. After facing his dead-end life, Jimmy enters the rap competition and after several viciously insulting rounds, wins. He then refuses to follow up on his success and attempt a recording career; he returns to his job at the stamping plant.

VIOLENCE/SCARINESS: There are several very realistic fist fights. A man shoots himself in the leg when he puts a gun into has pants; we later see a considerable amount of blood on his legs. There is talk of a young girl being raped in an abandoned building. There is a considerable amount of verbal abuse at home.

CRIMES: Assault (U), Weapons Possession (U), Drug Use (U), Arson (U), Vandalism (U).

MORALS, ISSUES & VALUES: At the center of the film is that idea that life is unrelentingly cruel and without purpose. This is a world in which the only way young men can survive psychologically is to have high dreams to prevent them from thinking about their low expectations. The relations between these young men and society is exemplified by the arson incident: they civic-mindedly burn down a house because a man raped a little girl in it and the city refuses to destroy such places where criminals can hide and do evil. There is mutual support and deep friendship and caring among these ghetto denizens. While there is racial tension between the blacks and white, racism is not the cause of physical violence. Jimmy gets into fights because of professional envy and jealously about his new girlfriend Alex. He is aware of the racial problem of a white man trying to be successful in a black world and, in one of his rap competitions, admits to being white trash before going on to skewer his opponent for having a college education. All the rappers express their talent in competitions of insulting each other. Outside the competitions they make social and political comments. It is clear that they sublimate their hostility into non-violent rap competitions or by driving around town a shooting paintballs at stores and police cars. These social conditions cause many of the people to turn dishonest: Wink lies to his friends promising to help Jimmy with his music career and Alex with her modeling career. It is possible that young Lily, growing up in a household full of strife, contention, poverty, hopelessness, irresponsibility, and verbal and physical abuse, may grow up with the same attitude as Jimmy. Most of the people in the central city dream of leaving the impoverishment, but few have any real hope: Stephanie, Jimmy’s mother, hopes that her boyfriend will provide a meal ticket out of the ghetto, others hope for a music career, Alex hopes to be a model – but few of these hopes are realistic. Jimmy finally chooses to return to the factory where he has begun to become a good worker. Diversity Issues: Jimmy is a white man trying to make it in a black world. He overcomes the prejudice by his talent. The filmmakers show a character watching “Imitation of Life” on TV, a film about a young black woman who passes for white – perhaps a reversal of the racial issues portrayed in the film. Language: Constant strong vulgarity and profanity throughout, considerable blunt sexual talk, gender as insult, homosexuality as insult, several racial epithets, several obscene gestures.

SEXUALITY, GENDER ISSUES & BODY FUNCTIONS: Single parent families. Contemporary gender roles. Jimmy and Alex have sex, the scene is extended and has movement and partial undressing. Alex is so desperate to get out of the socio/economic poverty of Detroit that she uses sex – she sleeps with anyone who she thinks will offer her a way out. Jimmy falls in love with her even through she is unfaithful. We see briefly Jimmy’s mother, Stephanie, nude, from the back straddling her boyfriend having sex with movement. She also discusses her sex life – lack of oral sex – with her son. Jimmy’s girlfriend claims to be pregnant to manipulate him. We see a man bare buttocks in a non-sexual situation. Several men have tattoos. During one of the rap competitions, Rabbit (rather half-heartedly) defends a gay man by explaining that “faggot” does not mean the same as “gay” – this scene may be in the film to respond to the criticism that Eminem’s lyrics are homophobic.

SUBSTANCES: Almost everyone smokes. Jimmy and his friends smoke marijuana while driving. The drink beers at home and in a club. Some drink hard liquor out of bottles. Stephanie get drunk when depressed and may be an alcoholic.

COMMENTS: A rap Rocky for the X-Generation, but now things have gotten so bad that defeat no longer contains a moral victory. Sad, depressing, and hopeless, this film recommends abandoning all hope and dreams of rising above the bottom rung of the social ladder. Jimmy Smith, Jr., is the perfect name for an everyperson – or a nobody. The almost universal lack of self-esteem results in a rage against self, society, and the other. Ultimately, Jimmy cannot give up the anger and defeats his opponent by the harshest of personal insults, not only being proud of his own depressing circumstances, but through the greatest insult he can invent – that his opponent has a college education (this being a even greater insult than he used against a previous opponent – homosexuality). In this world, all we can expect in an emotional relationship is an unfaithful love and that a sexual relationship is not the same as an emotional one. The depressing ending of Jimmy winning the competition but not having the courage to capitalize on it and going back to his dead-end job, is modulated by our knowledge of Eminem’s personal success. In addition, this film can be read as an attempt to rehabilitate Eminem’s public image as a racist and misogynist rap artists, a man who’s wife and mother are suing him for defamation, and a man who threatened a man with a gun for kissing his wife. Still, this film is a youthful anthem: joyless, full of complaint, anger and alienation. And the more popular this film becomes the more depressing it is because it demonstrates how many young people identify with this point of view. This film is important for parents to see to help them understand the rage that is plaguing young males today. (Reviewed Nov 2002)

STARRING: Marshall Mathers (AKA Eminem), Brittany Murphy, Taryn Manning, Chloe Greenfield, Kim Basinger, Michael Shannon, Evan Jones, Omar Benson Miller, De’angelo Wilson, Mekhi Phifer, Anthony Mackie, Eugene Byrd.

ALTERNATES: “Fight Club” is another film seething with anger, frustration, and self-hate.

CONTENT REVIEW (1-5)

Nudity – 5
Sexuality – 5
Physical Violence – 4
Emotional Stress – 5
Blood or Gore – 4
Language/Profanity – 5
Immorality – 4
Parental Guidance – 4
Artistic Merit – 4
Watchability for Adults – 4
Overall (For Kids of the Appropriate Age) – 4
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