Eminem, in 8 Mile, plays a Detroit post-teenager who dreams of becoming a rap singer, who both has black friends and receives hostility from blacks who don’t like his career intentions. For all its hokiness it’s a good movie, chiefly because of its depiction of working-class life in an American city. Scott Silver’s script is fragile, but Curtis Hanson directs it with flair and know-how. Eminem’s acting is hollow but the other performers shine. E.g., Mekhi Phifer is urban tough but nonthreatening as one of Eminem’s friends, he who asserts he intends to square things with the Lord but never gets around to it. Kim Basinger gives a nicely complex performance as the white rapper’s mother, and the late Brittany Murphy effectively plays, er, an affable slut. It’s not much of a role. It is not even clear that Silver is aware she is a slut.
Another problem: the obligatory embarrassing sex scene. And another: rap music. The one Eminem rap song I have heard in its entirety struck me as trivial and unfunny, and the tripe spewed out in 8 Mile is no better. One wishes we had Duke Ellington and Scott Joplin around to teach this white kid a lesson.