My knowledge and personal interest of one Marshall Mathers is extremely limited. All I know is that I, or he, is the real Slim Shady. Should one of us stand up, we’d answer a pressing question to one of his prominent works. That is not, to any degree, what 8 Mile is about. While rap is not entirely my cup of tea, there is no need to feverishly deny the acceptable notes Eminem can manage. Music to be Murdered By was hilariously poor, but that tainted formula is far removed from the scene director Curtis Hanson wishes to demonstrate. A dark, gritty camera style presents the underground rap scene, the preparation necessary, and the opportunities found within, presenting leading man Jimmy Smith Jr. (Eminem) with the opportunity to express his creative flair.
Grimy surroundings and a weak stomach, an audience’s introduction to Smith is backed-up with moody lighting and relationship troubles. Now without a car, girlfriend and family to rely on, his situation is a thick and fast collation of pressures. Enviable it is not, but 8 Mile isn’t all that concerned with fleshing those out beyond their namesake value. Smith is troubled, filled with issues that will solve themselves while he pursues his hobby as best he can. Stage fright in the crumbling cities, a culture clinging to their underground roots and closely-knit community values even when the odds are most certainly against them. Eminem isn’t so much at the centre of this, not as expected, rather he is found within these events. He just happens to be the leading, vocal character found within a sea of budding young rappers and music lovers, looking to catch their big break.
That much is shown rather well, and the generally strong moments found throughout 8 Mile do make it worth the watch. An early appearance from Michael Shannon and a supporting role from Kim Bassinger provide the acting portion of the film, whereas Eminem provides the shouting youth, lashing out at society and those that dare to do him wrong. It is an imbalance that 8 Mile never quite addresses, but it is, at the very least, engaging enough to present some level of entertainment. Hanson presents rough lifestyles, the trailer park survivors who have receded into depression and drink, only natural considering they appear to have wanted so much more. 8 Mile presents a very even-tempered approach to this, and while it isn’t entirely genuine and earnest, the jagged edges do at least provide some lively spirit.
A decent enough film, strong performances are littered throughout, Eminem is perhaps the greatest surprise of all when it comes to the acting found within. More than that, though, his leading role is not just an exploration into his struggling early days, but the harsh suburbs of Detroit, with Hanson planting a few known names into the rap culture that thrived in clubs and communities. 8 Mile fumbles its message and core mechanics from time to time, but it is at the very least a rather interesting approach to messages found in films decades before and after. An inevitably decent soundtrack helps too, but that is merely surplus to requirement for what is, at the end of it all, a very solid story of yearning for something bigger when the odds are stacked against you.