Set in Detroit in 1995, Jimmy, aka Rabbit (Eminem), struggles in life. Failing financially and personally, he has recently broken up with his girlfriend, who now claims she’s pregnant. Jimmy wants to hit the big time as a rapper, but the obstacles from life and even his close friends and family keep interfering and slowing him down.
The film opens with Jimmy attempting to motivate himself in a dirty old bathroom, even vomiting due to his nerves. He is about to do something massive, jumping on stage to compete in a rap battle. However, while Jimmy is confident, now he’s required to rap in front of a large group; he freezes up, cannot speak a word, and ultimately gets defeated. Jimmy returns to his mother (Kim Basinger), who lives in a trailer park, struggling to make ends meet. For the next few weeks, Jimmy tries to lay low, earn some money, and permanently leave the city.
Despite desiring to run away, his best friend Future (Mekhi Phifer) has put Jimmy down for another round of rap battles. Future believes Jimmy has what it takes to make it and continuously encourages him every step of the way. Still, Jimmy is getting exhausted, pushed, and somewhat forced to renter the rap contest, having been previously embarrassed. Jimmy also receives another promising opportunity, leaving him unsure of which path he should take and which one will give him the best outcome for his life.
8 Mile is best described as a drama film. Those who love music, especially all things relating to rap music, will also be treated to an excellent soundtrack, including the hit ‘Lose Yourself, which became the first rap song to win an Academy Award. I can’t say I’m a massive fan of rap music by any means, but that being said, I can’t help but admire and appreciate the talent this film offers, including from its leading actor and performer, Eminem.
The world was quite surprised to see a rap artist tackle a drama film, but to my amazement, Eminem as Jimmy is quite good and delivers many emotional and intense moments. Jimmy, as a character, can’t seem to catch a break, and it’s easy for the audience to feel compassion for him, even if he is a little rough on the edges. Jimmy is presented with many options and choices throughout the film, which have unpredictable outcomes, including his new relationship with a young woman named Alex (Brittany Murphy).
Watching a character living in the dumps is nothing new. It’s a story I’m sure many have seen in the cinema countless times. Eminem alone brings freshness to the screen, and the many situations he finds himself in are always a roadblock that requires him to rethink and try again. Side performances are reasonably great here, including Mekhi Phifer as Future as Jimmy’s solid friend and companion. Still, Jimmy will often question his loyalty and trust, which also keeps the audience guessing. The pacing is generally acceptable, with only a few moments lacking hype and purpose, including Jimmy’s romantic interest in Alex, which feels forced right from her introduction. However, actress Brittany Murphy still brings a likeable presence whenever she appears along with Eminem. Some of the conclusions for side characters are insanely lazy, such as the results for Jimmy’s mother, Stephanie, which always made my eyes roll.
Overall, while I could never call myself a hardcore rap fan, I’m surprised to say how much I enjoyed this film. While it covers the familiar beat of an underdog story, what makes the film engaging is a surprising performance from rap artist Eminem. He gives a crack at delivering a solid soundtrack and successfully bringing many dramatic situations and emotions to life. Some aspects here feel like they are not required, especially the outcomes of side characters that feel poorly written and lazy. But at its core, I found a fair amount of enjoyment with this film, and I guess you might say I lost myself in the music and the moment.