I love music movies. Specifically I love the Behind the Music-style narratives where someone dies before their time. My favorites in this rather small canon are Selena and La Bamba. I mean, Selena is mostly notable for its wide angle shots of J.Lo’s booty in mid-90s stirrup pants, but it’s still worth a gander. Whether or not you like the music that’s featured in these films (and I’m certainly not the biggest fan of Tejano music), there is something riveting about the interweaving of music and narrative. It’s kind of like a modern day musical, but there’s actually a reason why these people are busting out into song (duh, they’re musicians).
I saw Hustle and Flow last night and it had the potential of making it into my canon of cheesy music films. It was glossy and tacky and its violence and poverty was whitewashed in the same way violence and poverty are always whitewashed in these movies (Ray was particularly noteworthy in this manner). Ultimately, the problem I had with the movie is it was so unabashed in its smoothing over that it became a farce.
Selena and La Bamba had the good sense to leave out the negative aspects of the story — like the fact that Selena was divorced in real life — because they were sugar-sweet memoirs. But Hustle and Flow had all the gritty facts of something more realistic, except those facts were made into pretty shiny things. Sure, the main character, D Jay, is a pimp, but he’s a pimp with a heart of gold. Sure he has his hos, Nola and Shug, but they’re also sweet and guileless and, of course, D Jay always looks out for them.
The music in the film is definitely up to par: I’m not a huge rap enthusiast, but I definitely got into D Jay’s flow. At the end of the day, though, I simple couldn’t get into something that had all the trappings of a fairy tale but was populated by hookers and pimps. Maybe I just need to watch Snow White and the Seven Tricks a couple more times and I’ll get used to it.