Making films is hard. Making hip-hop films is harder. Making a film that plays with time and space is something that Outkast did well. I went to check out Idlewild a couple of days ago and was really moved to write a review, then I got lazy. This is my third incarnation of the review. Enjoy.
Not your Idlewild?
There has been a little bit of controversy around the movie being set in Idlewild, Ga (a mythical place). A year or so ago I heard about Idlewild, MI and thought that the movie was going to have a special connection to the area. I didn't particularly have an issue with the name and the setting, which was cool with me, but not with some.
"They take something with such historical significance as Idlewild, take the peripheral aspects of it, and turn it into a shoot-'em-up, bang-bang minstrel show. It demeans me as an African-American."
That was the comment of Coy Davis, the director of Whatever Happened to Idlewild. I hear that it's a good documentary, but I was pretty suprised that he would come out his neck so quickly about the film. There was shooting, but it wasn't a shoot-em up film. A minstrel show, interesting... there weren't even any White folks in the movie that I recall. There was the presence of the Black Middle class,decent representations of the juke joint, commentary on the "chitterling circuit", oh I guess characterizing Black culture in rural areas is minstrely ... maybe I missed it. I think it would have been nice to set it in Michigan, but maybe people like Davis' reaction dissuaded that possibility seriously.
Also, I think the name Idlewild represents the condition of the place. Percival (Andre) was "idle" in his place in the town, while the Church represented a dynamic setting with almost a religious excuberance from its attendees and was often "wild".
Storyline and Acting
I think the story line was solid. I didn't expect to have a thriller or many plot twists, instead it was straight forward movie. One where the viewer is encouraged to suspended disbelief. As the film opens the cinematography moves you into the images of old and I felt there (in part) for the time in my seat. I think the script was written close enough to Big Boi and Andre's characters that I didn't feel uncomfortable with their acting, even though Faizon Love was a little over the top, but delivered some great quotables.
The times that I was taken out of the old occured via the music. If the film made me realize one thing, it is that Andre is a musical genius! I wanted to see how they blended hip-hop music and classic juke joints. I was kind of shocked honestly, most of the music performed in the film were tracks that Outkast had already done, with some very small alterations (i.e. no references to tapes, cds, baby please...). I coudn't quite figure out why they didn't remix more stuff or change up the messaging. My best explanation is that they were attempting to challenge our conceptions of time and the fluidity between the juke joint and the hip hop spot. Some of the music meshed seamlessly (Andre's She Lives in my lap) while other moments felt odd (Big Boi rapping Church into the camera). The fluidity with with they treated time and progress was best represented by Percival's room and his wall of clocks. Throughout the film I kept thinking of afrofuturism, but that may just be me seeing too much Andre in the film.
Overall I was impressed with the film. It was an ambitious and well executed. Of course there could have been things that were done better, but the overall project was pretty fresh. It's what Carmen could have been (lol).