Tuesday, March 06, 2007

On-screen dazzling duo starts out as odd couple in Black Snake Moan

I can't stand it when people turn to judging a movie as being misogynist, only basing their opinion on a trailer before they go see it for themselves.

The movie Black Snake Moan, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Christina Ricci, written and directed by Craig Brewer (Hustle and Flow), provides a faithful, Memphis-country flavor without coddling you through the thick accents and how one roughs up a whore. Of course, it's a given, Samuel L. Jackson could quote the bible while portraying Lazarus just as poignantly when he spoke as Jules in Pulp Fiction. However, here in farm country, it is more fitting for him to be God-inspired Lazarus while having just split with his wife, getting stumbling drunk on 'shine, playing the blues like he was born with a guitar in his hands, then suddenly discovering a petite half-naked, beaten-nearly-to-death girl just on the edge of his dwelling that he has to nurse back to life. This is where the trailers wrongly advertise the movie... it's not all about chaining Rae down so that he can brainwash her into finding God or Jesus or anything like that at al. There are moments when yes, you can agree with what Rae says, she's able to take care of herself (on the surface), but when you see these trancelike states she fallen into again and again, you feel grateful Lazarus has tied her down for a while because her wandering just leads her into self-destruction -- the kind that a person may not live through next time. She learns so much about self-worth and about living right by being around Lazarus; how to control urges, like in life, temptation will always be there... it's how she learns to do what's right for her life; do what's good for the soul and what's worth remembering for years to come. Note: Christina Ricci is outstanding in her portrayal of Rae as hard-edged where it is clearly no irony, while watching her, you may recall Charlize Theron paving that same road of transformation in playing Aileen Wuornos.

Kim Richards plays Rae's mom. A little about this actress and why she is so significant: she was Tia in "Escape to Witch Mountain"! I was always excited, as a child, to see these movies and TV shows Disney (under "The Wonderful World of Disney") released or aired in the '70s. She is still so great to watch and her character, Sandy, is important to Rae's history in order to demonstrate where Rae's life could have been held together much better years ago (along with the eerie flashes of memory that Brewer portions out to the audience, letting 'em take it in gradually--keepin' 'em intr'ested).

Other notable character acting is well-handled by Justin Timberlake in his portrayal of Ronnie, Rae's sweetheart of a guy. This character is much like how most poverty-living guys are when they have nothing waiting for them after high school, so they impulsively join the military in order to make some money to better their lives. S. Epatha Merkerson ("Law & Order" and Reba from "Pee Wee's Playhouse") is wonderful as Angela; she's a grounding force in Lazarus's life and refreshing with her performance in every scene.

I highly recommend the soundtrack as it is one of the best blues performances I've witnessed on screen with genuineness coupled with the dance floor depicted in sexy slow-mo -- a very hot and memorable section of the movie.

This is a movie that you just have to see for yourself to understand that the juxtaposition between Ricci and Jackson is odd outside of the context, but watching Rae and Lazarus up close, you feel like it is a relationship that came together when two people were lost in a bunch of negativity -- just a couple of lives that needed a deeply positive direction, in which these two souls found themselves while being found by each other.

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