Hustle & Flow
The big deal at Sundance this year, Hustle and Flow sold to Paramount for a reported $9million+ and went on to win the Audience Award. This after writer-director Craig Brewer's screenplay had been turned down by every studio in town. And no wonder: the story of a Memphis pimp, DJay (Terrance Howard) who decides to change his life by cutting a rap record when he hears that local legend Skinny Black is coming back to town, H&F manages to combine the corniest of showbiz fairytales with a milieu of drugs and prostitution. Holding with the writer's saw to write what you know, DJay comes up with 'Whupp that Trick'. He even gets his ho's to harmonise the chorus: 'It's hard out there for a pimp'.
Played straight, more or less (Brewer seems to believe he's keeping it real) the movie confirms Noel Coward's dictum about the potency of cheap music. Scenes in which DJay and a born again buddy, Key (Anthony Anderson), put together a makeshift studio in the back bedroom have something of that old Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland 'Let's put on the show right here in the barn' chutzpah. DJay even has to ask the neighbours to keep the noise down when the cardboard he's stapled to the walls fails to soundproof the room. As Skinny Black, larger than life krunk hiphop star Ludacris sends himself up royally - at least I think that's what he's doing.
Brewer is careful to balance DJay's tough and tender sides, but in the best showbiz tradition it's a breakthrough performance from the excellent Terrance Howard which transcends the risible material. Not that it made any difference at the US box office, where the movie performed well below expectations. It was another Sundance pick-up - one that passed almost entirely unnoticed at the time - which went on to boffo biz: The March of the Penguins.