Review Date: January 29, 2008
Director: Craig Brewer
Writer: Craig Brewer
Producers: Stephanie Allain, John Singleton
Samuel L. Jackson as Lazarus
Christina Ricci as Rae
Justin Timberlake as Ronnie
A white trash ho who likes to get laid a lot, misses her boyfriend when he goes off to war, and decides to bungee-fuck a couple of other dudes around town in the meantime. One of them leaves her with a bruised eye (and ego) at the side of a road, where a jilted old black man, picks her up and brings her inside his home for help. A chain, Christina Ricci running around in tidy whitey underwear and tons of blues music…ensues.
I’d been looking forward to seeing this film since I picked writer/director Craig Brewer’s previous film, HUSTLE & FLOW, as my third most favorite movie in 2005, and maybe that was one of the reasons why I felt a little let down here. Brewer’s previous effort also had absolutely no theme relation to my own life, but it was able to elevate past that and put forth a heartfelt tale of an underdog to which almost anyone could relate. In this film, Brewer uses a metaphorical circumstance regarding a nympho young white girl to center his story, but it was hard to take it all so seriously at times (at some point, she’s actually chained to a radiator, for God’s sakes!), no connect to it on an emotional level, and I think most of that blame has to go toward the film’s screenplay and pacing. I say that because the actors, particularly the two leads in Christina Ricci and Sam Jackson, were rock solid all around, vulnerable and fearless, and ready to let it all hang out, no matter their respective vanities (particularly in Ricci’s case as she’s practically half-naked in the film – although it’s to note that there are no bush shots in the movie, and you only really see her tits twice, I believe). They did all they could, but the film didn’t have enough meat on its bones, in my opinion. It also ran a little too long and if you put those two together, it spells an uneven pace which started off pretty bang-on, but ultimately got a little too long in the tooth in terms of Jackson and Ricci’s initial “meeting”, and seemed to interrupt itself too many times with a song or more moaning and groaning.
The rap songs that were interlaced in Brewer’s previous picture felt organic and connected to the story, but here, the blues songs just didn’t do much for me. I’ve never really minded blues music, but I’ve never been a major fan either, so maybe that was a problem. Not sure. The film certainly spewed authenticity though, with yet another perfect setting, laced with all the sweat and tears from that region, and one of the cooler opening credit sequences of the year (it’s nothing really technologically advanced…just well-shot). Justin Timberlake also has a small but pivotal role in this movie, and just like in his previous acting gigs, not only does he not embarrass himself here, he actually plays it very well. The film tosses an “easy” romance in there for Jackson (did that really need to be there?) and ends things a little too “cleanly” for my taste, but all in all, it’s a beaut to behold, pushes the right message with all of its Bible-led proverbs – many of which were highly appreciated by the cute girl with whom I watched this film – and definitely provided anyone with zero access to these two very distinct cultures, with a cinematic interpretation of such lives, denominated by human issues to which many of us could relate. I did expect there to be a stronger emotional connection between Ricci and Jackson, but that said, the two actors were impressive to watch, so if you’re a fan of HUSTLE or the two actors, or anything blues-y…you should definitely give this film a shot. Also, if you just wanna see Christina’s Ricci’s…tune in.
(c) 2017 Berge Garabedian