Idlewild movie full length review - OutKasts other musicals by 8 miles
Had this movie sustained the cinematic brilliance of its first few minutes, there is no question that it would have been something so out of the ordinary as to become an instant classic.
As it is, it may have some cross-and-jostle work to establish itself as one of the Movies of the Year to see, but its flashes of original genius strung together with an operatic plot and dynamic cinematography, make a necklace of great flash and fire. Surely this one, with its embarrassment of talent, will be mentioned in several categories, not only music, at Oscar time. Worth seeing--- absolutely. I can hardly wait for the DVD, so that I can watch its excess to excess.
The film is going to have a generational promotional gap, not just the much-discussed racial one. It can't be dismissed as "the hip-hop Moulin Rouge", as I heard one member of our preview audience critique it coming out of the theater. If she were old enough, she would know that it's more akin to a "hip-hop Caberet", with Rooster (Antwan Andre "Big Boi" Patton of Outkast) as Sally Bowles. Director Bryan Barber may have modelled some camera work on Baz Lurman's spinning kaleidoscopic style, but it is more likely that his music video background was a stronger influence. While there are some similar plot points, this is not really "Moulin Noir"-- but kudos to the cleverness of that shorthand review.
Let's don't go there. Let's talk about what's blazingly new and fresh about this musical. For people who "hate musicals", this one (as Cabaret did) solves the problem of two people in face-to-face dialogue embarrassingly and improbably breaking into song. The musical numbers are the entertainment at "The Church", a speakeasy in the South during Prohibition Era. Entertainment which does have Moulin Rouge's flamboyance, combining a jazz age lindy-hop with hip hop, is dazzlingly choreographed by Tony Award winner Hinton Battle. While Macy Grey is wonderful as a hard-edged club singer, it is Rooster's first musical number at the Church, fusing jazz, cabaret and hip-hop, which blows the lid off.
OutKast fans (I count myself one) have to wait for plot development for the introverted Percival, played by Andre Benjamin, to display his musical talent. We are told it is there from the beginning of the movie, but it is not until he breaks out of his shell to coax the beautiful singer Angel Davenport(Paula Patton) to live her dream that he overcomes his stage fright and showcases his music. And there, ladies and gentlemen, is the centerpiece musical sparkler of this necklace, an impossible fusion number which turns sensational when performed with confidence and style. Oh, my! What talent will do with notes on a page!
"The Church", wryly named to showcase the corruption of bootleg liquor running, gambling and prostitution, is the hang-out for the dapper gangsta-land "Spats", Ving Rhames, who keeps the lid on violence in the "Showtime at the Apollo" club atmosphere and the dangerous business of squeezing both his booze supplier and the club owner, Sunshine Ace. We despise Ace more than anyone in the movie, until we get to know Trumpy (chillingly played by the gorgeous Terence Howard), who also comes out of his "shell" to reveal himself as a stupid and sadistic killer. The odd flatness of Howard's voice is powerfully used here to underscore his stupidity and the delight he has in killing people.
When greats like Ben Vereen and Cicely Tyson are little more than cameos, you know you have talent to spare. My one concern is that the music style may be too much fusion to keep the hip-hop fans happy, and the movie may be too hip-hop to attract the general audience it deserves. The horrid truth is that I am a middle-aged white woman, one of the two demographic segments supposed to love musicals. But while my credibility is suspect, my general film-critiquing skills are generally pretty solid. Abandon your preconceptions and your prejudices, whatever they are, and Just Go See.