Hustle and Flow: A Review from a Unique Perspective

When I told my 25 year old daughter that I really liked the movie Hustle and Flow (the latest of my rent-a-movie-by-mail movies) she was surprised and frankly so was I. Well, that's not exactly true. I had seen the movie, Crash (excellent, important, rent it) and from it, initially became aware of the actor, Terrence Howard. I could see for myself that he was a presence and when NPR did a piece on him, I knew he was someone I would want to continue to watch. However, though I pride myself on having an eclectic taste in music and movies, Rap and rap-culture movies have not exactly been , well, how should I say it, my cup of tea.

Terrence Howard plays a pimp, in Hustle and Flow, who is not all that satisfied with his life as it is, but like many in his situation, doesn't see any way out. He is portrayed sympathetically and even I, who gets offended just hearing the word, bitch in referance to a woman, was able to get past the language and my feminist beliefs long enough to see the person behind the male bravado. Howard's character, DJay has some talent in the music department and dreams about becoming a rap star. When he happens to meet an old high school buddy, who happens to be a sound engineer, DJay wheedles his way into the church where his friend is working. He hears a woman singing a gospel song with such passion and intensity, he is moved to tears. This was one of the first scenes that drew me into the movie.

DJay manages to convince his old friend, Key (Anthony Anderson), to listen to his music and eventually to help him produce a tape. Kay brings in a musician from the church, Shelby (DJ Qualls), who happens to be white, which does not go unnoticed by DJay. The character that Qualls plays is so refreshingly real and geeky, that he became the second reason I so thoroughly enjoyed this movie.

Then there were the women. They were perhaps the most outstanding of all the characters . There are three main women in DJay's life and though they were mostly treated in a demeaning fashion, they were portrayed as important characters in their own rights, with human characteristics that made them not only likeable, but dignified. Paula Jai Parker pllays one of DJay's hookers and is, I believe, the one with whom DJay has a baby. She is the least likeable of the trio and when he throws her out of the house, you are not left with much sympathy for her. The second woman, more like a child-woman in her presence and style of speech, is DJay's main prostitute. Nola (Taryn Manning) is seeking a way to feel important, to contribute, and not to be only what she does with men. During the recording sessions, though the women's presence is initially spurned, they soon become a part of it and you see Nola donning ear phones along with the others. I was never sure if she did so as per request, or she just took it upon herself to wear them to be a part of the process. In either case, it did make her a part of the sessions and you felt her pride. Thus my third reason for enjoying Hustle and Flow

The real treat of the movie for me was the third woman in DJay's life who is his girlfriend and is pregnant, though I am not sure that she is pregnant with him, but I think she is. Shug (Taraji P. Henson), has an innocence that I can only explain as what you would see in a character from a simpler time, living in an environment, more like Appalachia than Inner City. She comes across as innocent and vulnerable. Yet, it must be remembered, this is all taking place in the hood, where there is not always a lot of innocence to be found. She is asked to sing a background part for DJay's song and does so with obvious trepidation, even, embarrassment. But as she goes on, she gets into it and in time begins to belt out her part as if she were Queen Latifah, herself. She is as surprised as anyone, yet you can see the pride and accomplishment in her face. Her face, especially her eyes are her expression.

Later, in a scene where DJay is heading for his car, to drive to meet with this ex- big-time rapper, Skinny Black (Ludacris, also plays in the movie, Crash), he suddenly turns around to run back into the house where he runs into the arms of the unexpecting Shug. The look of love and appreciation in her eyes is worth the price of admission to the movie (or in this case, DVD.)

Another draw to this movie is the appearance of Isaac Hayes. Terrence Howard, Ludacris AND Isaac Hayes. Really, what else could you ask for? And, if that weren't enough, during a practice session, either Shug or Nola interrupts them to bring in a gift, a lava lamp. I know lava lamps have become popular again in recent years, perhaps never really went out of fashion, but to me it was a perfect symbol for what I will call, Generational Crossover. Classic ROCKRAP....oh, yeah!

OK, so Blogger is making me crazy by not allowing me to upload any more pictures, so I will go ahead and post this, even though there are a few more pictues I reallly wanted to include. I'm afraid if I wait any longer, Hustle and Flow will become a movie Classic and rap music will be just "classic rap". Oooooh, now that would be nice. ;-)

Here are the pics I couldn't download or upload or whatever on my first hundred attempts.....if at first you don't succeed...try try again.


Ricardo said...

I've heard good things about this movie. I'll check it out.

Sherril said...

Yes, do. As I said, it even crosses generational boundries in its appeal.

Ricardo said...

Not an easy thing to do when Hip-Hop is at the films center. They did something good here.

mark said...

I guess Im gonna have to check out this movie as well. Markj

Sherril said...

I'm surprised you haven't seen it. If and when you do, let me know what you think of it.