Saturday, July 30, 2005

A View At the Movies: Hustle and Flow

Let me preface this by saying that I did not want to like Hustle and Flow. I feel that Terrence Howard's accent as D.Jay was too thick. I also feel that the film will make us look like country bumpkins. I also have a problem with the misconception that the only current music coming out of Memphis is "crunk" music. My friends and I do different stuff. These are the reservations that I had in my mind before entering the theater.
Okay, let's begin: Terrence Howard is D.Jay, a struggling pimp. Taryn Manning plays his main street walker. Paula Jai Parker plays his strip club girl. In Memphis, these clubs are known as the shake joint. Taraji P. Henson plays his other girl who is now pregnant. D.Jay has a chance encounter with a bum who sells him a Casio keyboard for some narcotics. He begins to play with the keyboard and reawakens his musical aspirations. He gets reeunited with a high school friend, Key (Anthony Anderson), who then introduces him to an up and coming weedhead producer (DJ Qualls). They begin to hustle on equipment and work on D.Jay's demo. Taraji P. Henson's character sings the hook on several songs, including "It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp". D.Jay's big gamble is predicated on a meeting with Skinny Black (played by Ludacris) at a Arnel's. Isaac Hayes plays the club owner who believes in D.Jay's dream, and his primo weed supply. The outcome of this meeting shapes his life in positive and negative ways. Was that ominous enough without giving away the actual ending? I certainly hope so.
I enjoyed the story. The theory voiced by Shelby that everybody has the right to contribute a verse really spoke to me. It is a theory that I share as well. I also know about trying to achieve dreams late in life like D.Jay's character. I myself decided to pursue acting in my late 20s. Terrence Howard's passion and intensity result in a very riveting performance. You don't agree with everything D.Jay does, but yet you hope that he pulls it off. I also liked the subtle nods to Memphis and blaxploitation. The old-school font that they use for the title screamed 70s. I also liked the usage of "I Choose You", which is from the seminal 70s pimp film The Mack. They also played Al Green's "Jesus Is Waiting". The local Memphis cameos were also cool. Josey Scott of the Memphis rock band Saliva plays D.Jay's weed man. Veteran actor John Still plays a music store owner who has an...interesting encounter with Taryn Manning. The cameo that got me the most was Christopher "Free Sol" Anderson of the group Free Sol, who is drying his hands in the bathroom during the final club scene. Hot 107.1 DJ Michael "Boogaloo" Boyer also has an interesting encounter with Manning's character. You also hear the voice of local broadcaster and former kiddie show host Dennis Phillipi. Longtime Memphians remember when he hosted cartoons on Channel 24 as Joe Cool. Drector Craig Brewer used a lot of subtle pieces of imagery that local Memphians would catch. I guess these are an acknowledgement of the hometown flavor that is evident in our beloved Bluff City.
In closing, while I do still feel that there is more to my city than pimps and hos, and while I long for the day that my friends in Tunnel Clones and the Iron Mic Coaliton get the same hometown love as Three Six Mafia, the film is an interesting tale of trying to rise above your environment and live your dreams. Dream big. Go hard. Try to make it happen. But try not to "Whoop That Trick" if you can avoid it. I give Hustle and Flow 3.5 Cadillacs. It is a very narrow view of Memphis, but it is still entertaining. Oh, yeah, I almost forgot, shout out to Elise Neal for her role as Anthony Anderson's hardworking and devoted wife. She shines with minimal screentime. Hustle and Flow should be in most Memphian's DVD collection soon, if only for the geographical references. Be easy.


At 12:21 AM, Anonymous TableManners said...

Even though it's way after the fact I wanted to say it's nice that you support your friends in local hip-hop but I've heard Fathom9's rhymes and he sucks. I've purchased IMC's album and I've been to a bunch of their performances he pales in comparison to his counterparts.


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