More Idle Thoughts
Idlewild has suffered a universal shrug of the shoulders by critics, including a bizarre aside by Manohla Dargis that the film is covertly racist against darker-skinned black women: "It’s disconcerting that Ms. Patton, by far the most glamorized female lead, also has the palest skin." So implicitly the film is setting up some dark skin=floozy and light skin=classy dichotomy? What about the fact that Terence Howard, who plays the villain, is light skinned? Does this not balance the simplistic racial equation for her? This type of reductive thinking on race insults the film, which is trying to reclaim a piece of black history that was actually written by, directed by, and starring an all black cast. It has an intense pride of place - and rightly so - in this community Paula Patton does not have to pass as white to work her way up the entertainment ladder.
A criticism she fleshes out more is just as baffling to me: "Without any ironic inflection, he [Bryan Barber] recycles ideas and tropes that were stale when Edward G. Robinson was chewing cigars and scenery in the 1931 film Little Caesar." It seems she'd prefer the jaded posturing of Chicago than something that actually believes in what it is making. And I greatly prefer films that borrow from a tour-de-force performance like Edward G. rather than say, the empty ironic-winking spectacle of Moulin Rouge.
I respect Dargis and admire much of her work - but this piece was entirely off the mark. And there is much to criticize in the film - it's lead performances, the filming of dance sequences, the dialogue, the jumpy narrative, and much more.
Anyway, Rosenbaum sort of liked it, in a backhanded kind of way. Good for him!
Another note: I wrote a brief piece on Bryan Barber's music video work for IFC News. Check it out.