Idlewild [2]

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Review #232 of 365
Film: Idlewild (2006) [R] 121 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $14.25
Where Viewed: United Artists Denver Pavilions Stadium 15, Denver, CO
When 2nd Seen: 31 August 2006
Time: 12:30 p.m.
Soundtrack: Download Outkast's Idlewild music (not the soundtrack) OutKast - Idlewild here – or - order the similar CD below

Click for 'Review Lite' [a 150-word or less review of this film]
Note: this is the second review of Idlewild and may contain plot spoilers. Please read the first review, first, if you do not wish to have the plot spoiled.

It's obvious from my first review that I was pretty high on Idlewild the first time around. How big a fan of Outkast the group I will become remains to be seen. In any case, one of the true tests of a movie's greatness, of course, is to see how it holds up to a second viewing. Well, Idlewild holds up and more. Once you know the film's secrets and twists, you can watch them develop more fully upon a second viewing. Also, as this is a movie that knows how to have a good time, you too, can take certain things for the ingenuity vs. lack of reality they embody. All in all, my views of the film were enhanced and reinforced allowing for a sense of exhilaration one can only derive from a feeling that one was right the first time.

So what really makes this movie so good, so fresh, so hip? For starters, director Bryan Barber has unleashed the creative muses and allowed things to happen in the movie that stirred the conventional pot. The music/dance numbers are woven directly into the plot rather than standing on top of it or seeming contrived. The animated pieces are present to entertain as well as illustrate a blurring between realities. Yet, at the core, there are two really good intertwined, side-by-side stories that show the sacrifices one may be forecte to make for one's oldest, dearest, and longest time best friends. First we have the story of Rooster and Percival, who become best friends as children when they discover a mutual love for records and music in general. Rooster, ultimately becomes the performer/showman, while Percival becomes the writer/musician. As they grow up, we don't know much about their lives except that Percy is bound to working in his father's mortuary, and Rooster is pretty much abandoned.

Eventually, Rooster lands a lucrative second job as the dynamic lead singer in a group that headlines at the local gangster, prohibition-driven, night club in Idlewild, GA known as the Church. Rooster helps Percy get a job as piano player there too so he can continue to work on his music. Eventually, a brutal murder puts Rooster in charge of The Church. This taxes he business acumen and ultimately leads to the destruction of his marriage. Percy, meanwhile, falls in love with beautiful nightclub singer, Sally, masquerading as the famous Angela Davenport from St. Louis whose identity she has stolen, and he commits to leaving town with her when her gig at The Church is up. In the end, when the gangsters come to settle and old score due to the fact that Rooster is not paying up as much of his profits to the mob, Angle plays the ultimate price as she is shot in the crossfire. The climax extracts the ultimate sacrifice from Percival, but eventually helps get Rooster and his family—his wife takes the kids to live with her mother after she just cannot take his antics anymore—back together and settled. Percival also works up the courage to go to Chicago and try to make it on his own musically—which he does in honor of Sally.

The musical numbers, the surreal feeling, and the dance routines made this Idlewild unique in only that they are so well integrated into the plot. Yet, these combined with the stylistic camerawork and very clever animations pushed the envelope as to what we normally expect from movies. Quite simply, this unexpected gem of a summer movie really stands out as one of the year's best so far. I really cannot say enough about Bryan Barber's work on this film. It should be a treasure for decades to come.

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Idlewild (2006) Review-lite [150-word cap]
Writer-Director Bryan Barber, known for directing Outkast videos, has done for prohibition era, gangster musicals what the Wachowskis did for post-apocalyptic, action thrillers. Idlewild, featuring an incredible cast with homage to the black actors who paved the way (Cicely Tyson and Ben Vereen), along with marquee actors of the present (Terrence Howard and Ving Rhames), side by side great musicians turned actors (André Benjamin, Antwan A. Patton, Macy Gray, and Patti LaBelle), blends non sequitur animation and hip-hop, choreographed, musical numbers with a story of gangsters running moonshine to create a soulful river of heritage and sensibility as uncommon and divine as one may witness in films today. Sepia-toned lighting, lavish period costumes, creative camerawork, attention to detail, an elegance to the writing which chooses nuance vs. frying pan, the complexity of the subtext and foreshadowing, all stand out making this a truly original movie—possibly one of the year's best.

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