Wednesday, September 9, 2009
TBG (Finally) Sees: Notorious
Mrs. Bootleg and I have this little thing we do. If we're watching TV and something comes on that's shocking, silly, incredulous, etc., we'll exchange knowing glances to each other from across the room. Obviously, it's not original. It's just a little thing we do.
The Notorious B.I.G. (a/k/a Biggie Smalls) biopic "Notorious" shattered our household record for quick innocuous looks to one another. Within the first 30 minutes.
Good: The 122-minute runtime flies right by. Viewers get a small glimpse at a prepubescent Christopher Wallace that gives way to the high school dropout-cum-drug dealer version that quickly leads into "the rappin' years". For better or worse, the film doesn't spend too much time on any one aspect of B.I.G.'s life.
Not-So-Good: The hasty pacing really hurts the B.I.G. character. "Notorious" tries to paint him as a conflicted, nuanced persona, but he comes across as a naïve, impulsive and abusive a-hole for most of the movie before his life-altering epiphany in the film's final 10 minutes.
Good: Closest to the real thing – (1) Antonique Smith nails the heartbreaking vulnerability of B.I.G.'s wife Faith Evans. The scene where she's confronted with Tupac's allegations is powerful stuff. (2) Naturi Naughton endearingly hams it up as Lil' Kim. (3) Remember that ONE dance that Puff Daddy did in every video from 1995-1997? Derek Luke has it down.
Not-So-Good: Farthest from the real thing – (1) Anthony Mackie's turn as Tupac Shakur was almost comically insulting. Mackie looks nothing like Shakur and the 1996 real-life version of 'Pac was already a bad caricature. The producers couldn't find the dude who played Tupac in Scarface's "Smile" video? (2) B.I.G. sidekick Lil' Cease (Marc John Jefferies) is played as a glorified gopher who fetches weed and women for all the grown-ups. All that was missing was a "What'chu talkin' 'bout, Biggie?" line. (3) Angela Bassett is cast as Biggie's mother, Voletta. Biggie's mom is a dark-skinned Jamaican with a molasses-thick island accent. Bassett is 80 shades lighter and reads her lines with no accent until it appears out of nowhere after the movie is almost over.
Good: If you're a fan of the era, this movie will be a fun, frivolous kick. Well, OK, everything except the whole unsolved murder part.
Not-So-Good: Executive produced by Sean "Diddy" Combs, every character comes across as flawed in some way…save for Sean Combs. He's painted as a visionary who led the east coast rap renaissance in the mid 1990s with his old-school samples and pop beats. Why, without him, Biggie would've never graduated from the mixtape circuit.
GAAHHH!: There's a graphic – and I mean graphic – love scene between Biggie and Lil' Kim. It's the most frightening five seconds in cinematic history. I don't wanna ruin anything, but picture four enormous breasts and a gallon of flop sweat