Black Snake Moan (Film)

Artist: Movie ReviewTitle: Black Snake Moan (Film)Rating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Edwardo Jackson

How do you follow an Oscar-nominated film about a pimp turned rapper?

Why you make a film, Black Snake Moan (Paramount Classics) about a white girl chained up by a black man in

the South, of course… Beyond this salacious setup-and the playfully

inflammatory marketing–director Craig Brewer proves there’s more than one hit to

his wonder.

“I don’t love you no mo’.” Ouch. Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson) finds himself a

cuckolded husband by himself for the first time in years on his

remote, smalltown Tennessee farm. Rae (Christina Ricci) finds herself alone

after her soulmate Ronnie (Justin Timberlake) goes off for the military. But

Rae “got an itch” as a barely functioning nymphomaniac who, when she’s

not coughing up a lung due to some undiagnosed sickness, is

self-medicating through sensuality. When Lazarus finds her bruised,

literally half-naked body by the side of the road, he takes her into

his home, determined to exorcise the demons inside of her-even if it

means chaining her horny ass to a radiator. In ways unexpected and

unusual, they begin to learn, and heal, each other-to a nifty blues

soundtrack.

A paean to old school, Southern blues (Brewer has a thing for the

influence of black music, lucky for us), Moan is as original a work

as you may see all year, in that it features an outrageous premise,

grounds itself firmly in reality, and opens itself (and yourself) up to a

musical, spiritual, and emotional journey of two wounded souls.

Musical? Lazarus is a semi-retired blues man who may or may not seek

redemption through song. Spiritual? “God has seen fit to put you in my

path,” Lazarus intones to a charged up Rae, who’s used to using

carnality as currency. “It is up to me to break you of your

wickedness.” And the emotional piece is a literal and figurative bond

they share: Rae is physically CHAINED to his radiator! Brewer’s

direction is audaciously feral yet tender, his script spiritual yet

darkly humorous; it’s one of the more original, inventive,

well-written scripts in some time. Besides pleasantly showing faithful

representations of older black folk (glad to have you, S. Epatha

Merkerson (Law & Order) as the local pharmacist who’s sweet on Samuel L.), Brewer

explores the painfully symbiotic relationships of two damaged beings

trying to salve their hurt and pain with each other, while playfully

messing with our own expectations of such a taboo’s taboo relationship

(a May-December, white-black, rural SOUTHERN relationship?!? Somebody

call Mister Charlie!).

That’s what makes Moan so great-it’s unexpected. After waving guns

and spouting catchphrases in his last couple of movies, Samuel L.

Jackson is back to acting. Dipped in a deep-fried accent, gray beard,

gold grill, and looking older than we’ve ever seen him before, Sam anchors the film with his wifebeater-soaked, blues-influenced moral rectitude, with an edge. A

gloriously naked and surprisingly sensuous Christina Ricci gives a

fearless, fabulous performance as the sickly, self-destructive nympho

Rae; her life is “either cough drops or condoms.” No, it’s not

fearless that she’s running around in her panties and a peek-a-boo,

Jennifer Bealsish crop top the whole movie. With her dirty blonde

hair, misbehaving green eyes, and a turnstile for legs, Ricci

absolutely humanizes, three-dimensionalizes a woman who treats herself

worse than recycled white trash-she’s the compost of white trash,

decomposing and disintegrating in front of our very eyes. Her

dependence on Ronnie (an utterly believable and somewhat impressive

Justin Timberlake) for balance in her life isn’t just a therapist’s

nightmare, it’s a true, bilateral dependency that, like Voltron, is

stronger when they’re together than when they’re apart. Once you add Sam’s aching Lazarus to the mix, both actors bring out the best in each other. Just like their characters.

Black Snake Moan is a beautiful, painful movie, one that exalts

beauty through its pain. The first great movie of the year, make sure

you “see fit to put it in your path” as well. But leave your chains at

home.

Edwardo Jackson (ReelReviewz@aol.com) is an author and LA-based screenwriter, visit his website at www.edwardojackson.com

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