Working with an American Film: 8 Mile
The film 8 Mile is from 2002. It is 1 hour 58 minutes long.
It was filmed in Detroit, within the 8 Mile Road that surrounds the central city and marks the boundary between the poor inner city and the rich suburbs. The year is 1995. You will hear a lot of accents in the picture – most of them inner-city dialect inspired by the Southern American accent brought to Detroit by blacks who moved north. It’s not too hard to understand after a while. Many words and expressions appear in the rap music that inspired this film.
This film is rated R for “Restricted” by the Motion Picture Association of American (MPAA). That means anyone under 17 who wanted to see it at a cinema was required to have an “Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian” along. It was given this rating because it contains “Strong Language, Sexuality, Some Violence and Drug Abuse.”
This is not surprising, given that it deals with the inner-city hip hop scene, rap music and gang culture. However, it is not a particularly violent movie. No one is killed. It makes a moral point. And it has a (relatively) happy ending.
Cast of characters
Jimmy “B-Rabbit” Smith, Jr Marshall “Eminem” Mathers
Stephanie Kim Basinger
Future Mekhi Phifer
Alex Britanny Murphy
Cheddar Bob Evan Jones
DJ Iz De’Angelo Wilson
Wink Eugene Byrd
Sol George Omar Benson Miller
Watching the film
Watch the film until the scene when he has moved back to his mother’s trailer (mobile home) and tries to start her car in the morning. After seeing the film this far, sit in groups of four and discuss the following points. One of you writes down you conclusions.
1. What happened to Rabbit at the rap club? How did he react to this? Why does he go back to his mother’s trailer?
2. What impression do you get of the general setting of the movie so far: the environment Rabbit lives in, his friends, family, the neighborhood, etc?
3. Why is there trouble between him and Stephanie, his mother? What kind of a person does she seem like to you?
4. Describe the members of his “crew” (Three One Third). Why do you suppose he spends his free time with them?
5. Apart from Rabbit, which of the characters do you find most interesting so far? Why? What do you think will happen to this character in the course of the film?
After you have seen the whole film
Work in small groups and discuss these points. Then choose one or two of the points and put down your personal reflections in writing.
A The Plot
1. Rabbit “chokes” at the start of the film. Why?
2. The characters “Future” and “Wink” each try to convince Rabbit that he should follow their advice. Which did you believe? Why?
3. Why do Rabbits enemies call him “Elvis”?
4. What is a “demo” and why is Rabbit so eager to make one?
5. What role does Alex play in the conflict between Future and DJ Iz?
6. Why does Rabbit return to the club for another battle at the end of the film? (What is a “battle”?) What advantage does Jimmy have at the end of the film that he did not have at the start?
7. What does Jimmy do at the end of the movie? Is this what you expected would happen?
8. What would you say is the main plot of this movie (look for the central conflict)?
9. Does this film have any sub-plots – for example, stories concerning Stephanie, Cheddar Bob, Wink and Alex? Have these any impact on the main plot?
B The Theme(s)
1. What do you think is the major theme of this film? Sum it up in you own words and compare it with the others in your group.
2. Are there any secondary themes in the film (that is, other ideas around which parts of the film are constructed)?
3. Once you have decided on a theme, ask yourself what other movies you have seen which have had the same theme. Make a short list and then compare it with the others in your group.
4. In the end, Jimmy does not take the advice of either Wink or Future. He decides to go his own way. What do you think this ending is intended to say to the audience?
1. Which age group and audience do you think this picture was intended for?
2. The Motion Picture Association of American (MPAA) advised that no one under the age of 17 go to this movie without an adult. Does this advice reflect particularly American attitudes or values? If so, which?
3. Now that you have seen the film, do you agree with the age limit set? What age limit would you set?
4. If you were to let anyone of any age see the film, which scenes do you think would have to be cut?
1. Many of the characters in this film are sharply drawn. Put down five to ten words for the qualities you think sum the following characters (for example – lazy, silly, violent, and so on). Then compare the qualities you picked with others in your group. What do you have in common? How are your evaluations different?
- Jimmy “B-Rabbit” Smith Jr
- Cheddar Bob
- DJ Iz
- Sol George
2. Major characters change during a play or movie. Minor characters do not. Which of the characters in 8 Mile would your rate as major and which as minor? Of course, there are degrees of change, so you can place them from left to right the scale below:
(Great Change) (Little Change)
3. Which of the characters did you like the best? Which did you find most sympathetic? Which most unsympathetic? Arrange them from left to right below:
Most sympathetic Least sympathetic
4. In question 5 above, under “Watching the film”, you wrote down what you thought would happen to one of the characters. Compare your answer to what really happened. Did things turn out differently?
E The Social Setting
1. What does this film tell you about living in an inner-city environment in the United States? What kinds of jobs do most people have there? What kinds of lives do they live? What do we learn about their hopes or ambitions?
2. Hip hop culture and rap music grew out of the black community, in which much of the action of this movie takes place. What do you learn about this community? What is Jimmy’s relationship to community?
3. This film gives a gritty view of working class life in the United States. What kind of job does Jimmy have at the auto parts factory? What kind of relationship does he have with his boss there? To his fellow workers? What do we learn about working life in Detroit?
4. How is the setting of the factory used to give us knowledge of the origins of rap music? How central is rap music to the setting of this film?
5. Do you think you have been given a realistic picture of the inner-city in this picture? Why or why not?
F Acting and Direction
1. Who did you think acted best in the film? Did anyone give a poor performance?
2. Which scene in the film did you like the most? Which did you think was most funny?
3. Did the film keep you interested all the way through, or were there “dead periods” for you? If so, which?
4. Did the music come as a natural part of the film, or was it “pushed into” the action?
5. Why do you suppose the director decided to keep a “dark tone” to most of the scenes in the film? Did the film have a “dark” or pessimistic message?
6. Would you recommend this film to others to see? Is there anyone you would recommend not to see it?
1. The following quotes are taken off the Internet. They are actual reactions to the movie. Use one of them as a point of departure to write an e-mail to a friend giving your opinion of the movie and ending with your reason(s) for recommending or not recommending it.
- Eminem is awesome. This is the best movie. Even if you don’t like him, you still need to see this movie.
- This movie is full of sex, drugs and without a good story.
- Most of the music artists’ debuts are very lame. This was definitely an exception. Eminem was a great actor in this movie.
- I have to admit, if Eminem wasn’t the star of the movie, it would have sucked. But with him being the star, the movie rocked.
- I dunno….I guess it would have been good if I idolized Eminem.
But I don’t. Ick…
- This is a real review and not an ignorant punk trying to sound cool. 8 Mile was a really good movie with flaws like any other movie.
- OMG! The man is gorgeous and can do no wrong!
- It sucked like his music.
2. Choose one of the characters for whom you made a list of qualities above (Characters, question 1). Use it to write a full page character sketch about that person and his or her role in the film.
3. Write a review of the movie for your local newspaper.
4. Write you own story about someone who is determined to use their talents to find their own way to success.