Joel Siegel Reviews New Movies

ByJoel Siegel

Nov. 8, 2002 -- Now in theaters: 8 Mile and Far From Heaven.

8 Mile — I don't know anything about rap music. But I'll tell you this, 8 Mile is good.

There are three ways a singer can make movies: The Elvis route, where you let people squander your talent. The Madonna route, where you let people know you have no talent. Eminem — at least with his first film — is taking the third route. He surrounds himself with the best people possible and listens to them.

I was not expecting a film this fine. It's rated R for rough, raw and real — and Eminem is haunting. The way he internalizes the desperation around him, yet lets us know somehow he's going to find a way out, reminded me of James Dean. Really. And, lo and behold, I read that Oscar-nominated director Chris Hanson showed Eminem James Dean films when he prepped him for the part.

It's impossible to tell whether Eminem can be a great actor. Two reasons: The part he plays is too close to his real life. And all the performances are terrific, including Brittany Murphy as his girlfriend and Kim Basinger, as his trailer-trash mom.

It's not till the end of the film that Eminem takes the stage at a rap battle — a war of words, hailing insults. I only understood half the words, because I'm old (but not that old). The best review I can give a drama or an actor: When the film ends you still believe the character lives on. Grade: A-.

Far From Heaven — Director Todd Haynes uses every trick in the Hollywood book — costume, lighting, makeup, set design — to turn Far From Heaven into movie heaven.

You see the Connecticut ideal of good living in the 1950s. Perfect people in perfect homes at their perfect cocktail parties, drinking their perfect drinks. It's perfect everywhere except the one place they hope we don't look — under the rug.

In this world, women put on high heels and designer clothes to drive to the neighbor's.

This is high-wire filmmaking that could easily slip and trip into parody. But, I watched astonished, it never does.

Julianne Moore finds out that husband Dennis Quaid has a secret life. She magically gives depth and dreams to a character who, on the surface, doesn't have either.

I'll say two things about an Oscar nomination for Julianne Moore for best actress: for sure and at least. Grade: A-

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