Black Snake Moan (2006)

DVD Cover (Paramount)
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Connections: Black Snake Moan

In rural Tennessee, Lazarus, a former blues musician who survives by truck farming, finds a young girl nearly beaten to death near his home. She's the white-trash town tramp, molded by a life of sexual abuse at the hands of her father and verbal abuse from her mother, who seems to delight in reminding Rae of her mistake in not aborting her. Lazarus, who is also facing personal crisis at the dissolution of his marriage, nurses Rae back to health, providing her with gentle, fatherly advice as well as an education in blues music. Rae's boyfriend, Ronnie, goaded by the man who nearly beat Rae to death, misunderstands the relationship between Lazarus and Rae, and vows to kill him. Lazarus, exhibiting a street-smart understanding of violence and its motives, calls Ronnie's bluff, senses that he is as troubled as Rae, and becomes a guiding force in the young couple's resurrection. --IMDb
Review by bluemeanie
Added: February 22, 2007
Director Craig Brewer is one of 'the new breed', a filmmaker whose creativity and spark for dramatic storytelling blend together brilliantly, much like Spike Jonze and Wes Anderson, though not nearly as experimental. His first feature film, "Hustle & Flow", was one of the most critically acclaimed films of its year, and its star Terrence Howard was immediately thrust to stardom. The film blended drama and music together in a way that few filmmakers have, and it is probably the only reason he was able to follow up with a film so unusual as "Black Snake Moan". Even from the trailers, you knew this one was going to be slightly odd - looking more like something Quentin Tarantino might have tackled. "Black Snake Moan" is the type of film that will probably not appeal to lots and lots of movie-goers, though I hope that is not the case. It's probably one of those films that will attain a level of cult status before it even leaves theatres, like "Donnie Darko". It's a film that I personally want to see succeed because it's the best film of 2007, hands down.

The juggernaut here is the character of Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson), a simple farmer in rural Tennessee, whose wife has just left him for his younger brother. Despondent and lonely, Lazarus has nothing to do but trample his ex-wife's rose garden and occasionally pick out a song on his guitar. One day, however, he stumbles upon the unconscious body of Rae (Christina Ricci), half dead on the side of the road. Rae is a local girl, and she has a 'condition' where she has to have sex often, or she goes 'crazy'. Lazarus takes Rae back to his home and decides to nurse her back to help, but then decides she needs more help than cough syrup and Neosporin can give. Lazarus learns of Rae's troubled background and is determined to 'cure her of her wickedness'. Justin Timberlake co-stars as Ronnie, Rae's boyfriend who leaves for the Army at the opening of the film. Ronnie and Rae seem made for one another, but Rae doesn't know what she'll do without him, and he doesn't know what he'll do without her. S. Epatha Merkerson co-stars as Angela, the local pharmacist who takes a liking to Lazarus when he brings her some of his famous butterbeans. Believe it or not, all of these characters fit together nicely here - they all have their purpose.

What director Craig Brewer realizes is that a premise like this is humorous from the get-go. A black man tying a white girl to a radiator with a 20-foot chain is funny. And to have Samuel L. Jackson deliver some of the dialogue her delivers is going to elicit laughter from the audience, because this is the kind of dialogue Samuel L. Jackson was born to deliver. But, that doesn't bother Brewer. He is perfectly content with there being humorous moments in this film, because he still manages to turn it into a heartfelt and poignant drama about two confused and lonely people finding one another, and changing one another, in the most unlikely of ways. "Black Snake Moan" makes you laugh, makes you cringe, and might even make some of you cry - I don't know. It's one of those magical films that sticks with you long after you've left the theatre. You might think this odd if you've seen the trailers, but don't let those fool you - there's more here than meets the eye. There is one brilliant sequence where Lazarus and Rae are in the house amidst a lightning storm and Rae asks Lazarus to play her a blues song - that entire sequence is nothing short of beautiful. It's one of the best constructed sequences I've seen in a long time, and I can't stop thinking about it.

And, my God, at the performances. Samuel L. Jackson delivers his best performance since "Pulp Fiction" as Lazarus, a complicated character portrayed by a complicated actor. Jackson reaches deep down and finds an insane intensity that even Jules didn't have in "Pulp Fiction" - it's the intensity of a man at a crossroads in his life, who just wants to do his Godly duty. Christina Ricci delivers the best performance of her career as Rae, the perfect showcase for her talents and what will hopefully thrust her back into the mainstream. The character of Rae is a tricky one to play, and especially play correctly, and she takes it on like a champ and knocks it out of the park. Justin Timberlake also provides nice support, again, as Ronnie, the wimpy wannabe soldier who can't even listen to loud music without getting panic attacks. Timberlake is amassing a fine resume of nice supporting work, and "Black Snake Moan" might be his most nuanced performance yet. A couple of other noteworthy standouts include S. Epatha Merkerson is a well-written, but minimal role, and John Cothran as the local reverend, who has some of the best scenes in the entire film.

So, those of you who have been dying to see "Black Snake Moan" are not going to be disappointed in the slightest - this might be the best film you see all year. Those of you who would never give a film like this a chance, you might be pleasantly surprised at how much you enjoy it. I thought it was the best film of 2007, by a mile, and you can expect it to make my end of the year list in some capacity. It's a film that, like "Hustle & Flow" blends the music and the drama together in a fluid and believable way. When Samuel L. Jackson takes the stage towards the end of the film and starts blasting out the blues, it is a scene of pure beauty. "Black Snake Moan" reminds us that you can have a hilarious and intense piece of cinema, and still manage to tap into the human drama of characters and see them grow and recover. Lazarus and Rae are two people from different worlds who find one another, by chance, and change each other's lives forever. You also get to hear Samuel L. Jackson scream, "Get your ass back in my house!" - and who doesn't want that?

Crispy #1: Crispy - added 02/23/2007, 02:24 AM
As a huge Christina Ricci fan, this one is right at the top of my queu. It's proving a bitch to find a theatre nearbye its playing in though.
Chad #2: Chad - added 02/23/2007, 02:33 AM
It opens in theaters next week, might have better luck then.
bluemeanie #3: bluemeanie - added 02/23/2007, 03:47 AM
I have never been a big Christina Ricci fan...I always lump her in the same category as Anna Paquin, another actress I have never enjoyed. But, this film made me a believer. I think this film will serve as somewhat of a comeback for Ricci, and I think it is well deserved. She has made a believer out of me by taking on a role of this difficulty and making it work so wonderfully.
Crispy #4: Crispy - added 02/23/2007, 11:55 AM
"It opens in theaters next week, might have better luck then. "

Lol, that might be my problem.
Chad #5: Chad - added 07/07/2007, 01:21 AM
There is one brilliant sequence where Lazarus and Rae are in the house amidst a lightning storm and Rae asks Lazarus to play her a blues song - that entire sequence is nothing short of beautiful. It's one of the best constructed sequences I've seen in a long time, and I can't stop thinking about it.

Couldn't agree more - that scene was amazing. Definitely going to rank somewhere in my year-end list as well.
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