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Music That Mathers: We have met the Eminem in '8 Mile,' and he is us.

Eminem Domain

Eminem can't rap his way out of this formulaic film

By Todd Inoue

IF YOU BELIEVE the hype surrounding Eminem, you'd think a movie about his life would be about smacking bitches and popping caps--an ignorant, oft-repeated refrain dismissing all hip-hop music. Behind all the controversy, Eminem is an extremely talented rapper with a talent for freestyling--rhyming off the top of the head--who fought through a difficult home life to achieve success.

8 Mile is loosely based on Eminem's life-- the trailer-park upbringing and his proximity to 8 Mile, the Detroit divide that separates the depressed white and black neighborhoods. Eminem plays Jimmy Smith (MC name: Bunny Rabbit), a kid with dreams of rap stardom. He rolls with a crew of misfits and has an irresponsible mom (Kim Basinger) who's shacking up with his old high school buddy. Jimmy works at the steel plant to save up for studio time. To sharpen his skills, he breaks into the "ciphers"--impromptu freestyle rap sessions--hoping for his shot at a local battle at the hot underground club.

Hip-hop is represented fairly. The songs of 1995--Mobb Deep's "Shook Ones," Ol' Dirty Bastard's "Shimmy Shimmy Ya"--frame the picture in the correct era. The clutches and handshakes look authentic, and the freestyles are nice, but it doesn't take long for Hollywood to take dramatic license. 8 Mile plays up the racial aspect--the white guy gets clowned by the predominantly black crowd. Em's own come-up was more harmonious ("When I was underground, nobody gave a fuck I was white," he raps in "White America").

But that's OK. 8 Mile sells the fantasy rather than the reality. 8 Mile is the white trash Purple Rain or a rappin' Rudy. It's a film that could change the mind of his critics--Dick Cheney and Tipper Gore included.

8 Mile (R; 110 min.), directed by Curtis Hanson, written by Scott Silver, photographed by Rodrigo Prieto and starring Eminem, Kim Basinger, Mekhi Phifer and Brittany Murphy, plays at the Aptos Cinemas, Santa Cruz Cinema 9 and the Fox in Watsonville.

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From the November 13-20, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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