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Monday, October 20, 2014
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Published: Tuesday, 12/3/2002

Watching this film is enthralling and painful

Let me just start with this preface: Yes, I understand that different families have different rules, and that parents - i.e., the people who theoretically know the kids best - should be the final arbiter of what is and isn't suitable for their children,

But all that aside, I can't think of any excuse why adults would tote along Little Ones when they went to satisfy their curiosity about rapper Eminem's star turn on the big screen.

But there they were Saturday night at Showcase: short specimens of our own species, not yet fully developed and therefore exquisitely vulnerable to whatever might be put before them.

Since its release a few weeks ago, director Curtis Hanson's 8 Mile has earned widespread praise, for the movie itself and Eminem's compelling acting.

It also more than earns its R rating for language, sex, violence, and drug use.

I don't think it's possible to convey my squeamishness after my husband and I walked into the theater for the 7-ish showing Saturday night and saw more than a few young children sprinkled among the audience.

Granted, as Baby Boomers we were probably the oldest people present (in the words of my husband: “We're the only people here who will be watching HGTV later tonight.”)

And I know that, given the creeping advance of age, someone in my demographic probably wasn't supposed to like this movie.

But I did. A lot.

All except for those moments when I'd remind myself that somewhere among these dark rows of seats, little kids were looking up at that big screen and seeing the same things I saw.

At the risk of being mistaken for a Bill Bennett sympathizer, what the $#@*! goes through the mind of adults who would take a child to a movie that is a thinly veiled biography of Eminem?

No, I'm not one of those parents who think Huck Finn should be banned. And if I thought children should never ever be exposed to sex or violence, well, I guess Shakespeare would be off the menu.

But every other word in 8 Mile is the F word. There is a fairly lengthy (though not terribly graphic) sex scene. There are wince-inducing beatings, both domestic violence and garden-variety thuggery.

And the sum of these parts is 111 unblinking minutes of underclass poverty and all its attendant misery.

Not that there aren't tender moments in this movie. There are, chiefly between Eminem's character and the little sister he clearly adores.

Some of the most painful scenes in this movie (for me, anyway) involved the doe-eyed Lily.

Yes, it was awful when she bore mute witness to domestic violence. Horrible when she watched her brother being beaten. Heart-breaking when she listened to her mother and brother shriek at one another.

But just as unsettling were the scenes of her utter neglect.

Lily, pictured on the couch watching cartoons in such a way that you know no one but her brother has said “boo” to her all day long - that's wrenching.

But then, lousy parents are everywhere, even up on the screen or just one row over.



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