While in Oceanside, the Wunderhusband and I decided to watch a movie. I was thrilled to see that Black Snake Moan was finally out, and we decided to watch it. (No, I honestly don’t know what made me want to see this movie so much…I just had a hunch that it would be worthwhile).
Now, as of today, both a Sundance reviewer and Rolling Stone have completely panned this movie….and as one commenter said, “Did they even watch the movie???”.
Black Snake Moan reminds me a bit of Flannery O’Connor’s stories–it’s very dark/Southern Gothic, and it runs two very disparate themes alongside each other throughout the story, ultimately resolving them into a beautiful, visceral, gripping message….without being trite.
Just so you know, this movie is rated R and it deserves every bit of that rating. It’s a very “hard” R, IMHO: there’s an abundance of strong language & violence, and within the first few minutes, it’s clearly established that the main character is a nymphomaniac. After the first 20 minutes, I started wondering if I should leave the theater. (I’m so glad that I didn’t!!) This movie takes its time to construct a very believable world with many intriguing characters… but it’s worth the wait.
The interaction between Rae (Christina Ricci) and Lazarus (Samuel L Jackson) is a shockingly memorable picture of the redemptive power of love, even in the most horrific, abusive, unjust situations. It also places a rare emphasis on the need for adults to take personal responsibility for their actions and the direction of their lives. WOW. I was so moved by the end of the movie that I had tears streaming down my face–it was such a powerful reminder of how flawed and horrible we humans can be…and yet how very, very loved we are, and what a privilege it is to be able to show love to others.
I don’t want to give too much away–and I don’t want to recommend this to everyone (for instance, I wouldn’t want my 18 year old sister to watch this movie).
But don’t believe the idiotic, pompous, uninformed reviews that are floating around out there. This is one of the best stories I’ve seen in the past 10 years. It’s executed masterfully, and the chemistry between the castmembers is so powerful that you can’t imagine a better cast.
The actors very obviously “get” the message of the movie and this gives their performances a very raw, genuine feel that helps pull us into the story. For example, Rae’s sexual abuse as a child/teen leaves her with PTSD, and she frequently hallucinates about a faceless, male attacker holding a cigarette lighter. During one pivotal scene, as Lazarus sings the blues in his small living room, and a thunderstorm rumbles outside, Rae clings to Lazarus’s leg. The camera pans out and shows her (hallucinated) attacker coming through the door to menacingly stroke her hair with the same hand that holds his lighted cigarette. Shaking and with tears bleeding from her eyes, she refuses to look back or revert to her usual coping mechanism. And even though she doesn’t have the strength (yet) to face and vanquish her attacker, she does find the ability to transcend the abuse inflicted on her, and the wrongs she’s committed, to redirect her life toward a less destructive path.
…and all because of the redemptive power of love shown through a flawed individuals.
P.S. Salon.com had a fair summary: “‘Black Snake Moan’ is ultimately about damaged people helping one another to become their best selves. “