Monday, December 8, 2008
MOVIE REVIEW: Cadilac Records
So they say Beyonce gave an Oscar worthy performance. I don't know about all that, but I know her star power can bulldoze her way to the Oscars. Yes she was convincing as Etta but her vocals, while sharp and in tone, cannot match the soul and real emotion of the Icon.
Despite the 'one man show' that is Beyonce being the face of the film, it is actually about an ensemble. But there is no Jennifer Hudson and anyone else to steal her shine this time. The movie is about Chicago's celebrated Chess Records label, where in the 1950s the primordial country blues of the Mississippi Delta got plugged in and turned way up, eventually into rock and roll.
You would think a movie about Chess records would focus on Leonard and Phil Chess, the Polish-immigrant brothers who started the label in 1950. However, again because of the Beyonce machine (and the fact that she paid to get on as executive producer)the movie doesn't come together to tell a cohesive story. It gives a little shine to the characters of Muddy Waters, Little Walter (who was in Muddy's band), and Willie Dixon played by Cedric the Entertainer, who also provides unnecessary voice-over narrations.
The movie also gives a minute to explore Chuck Berry played by Mos Def, which if given time would have been the real dominator in this film. He rips the songs, he handles the character with care, and he steals the few scenes in the movie. Given the opportunity, he could have run away with the whole picture.
There was no development of the other characters and no mention of artists on the label like Bo Diddley who had way more of an impact than Etta james. Yet and still because of the apparent case of 'the woman with the check gets the advantage,' the movie leaves the door open for Beyonce's interpretation of Etta James to take the spotlight.
As a result, the movie comes off as a piece meal as oppose to a dynamic story of an ensemble. It was not bad but could have been much better.