Will the Film Notorious Live Up to Biggie's Legacy?
Last night I was sitting on a patio, having a conversation that I find myself having over and over again these days. this conversation is about eventually, one of the major movie studios is going to make a movie about hip hop that is going to be every bit as epic and high-concept as Ray or was, or any major biopic that got it right. Hip Hop is the most dominant force in pop culture since the Beatles. with so many people who have been so influential all packed into a relatively small area (the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn) at one time (the 80s and early 90s), it is inevitable that someone is going to make a movie about that place at that time. the question becomes which rapper is this movie going to be about?
It has just come to my attention that Fox Searchlight Pictures is, right now, making a Notorious B.I.G. movie. It is set for a 2009 release. It's called Notorious and it is being directed by George Tillman Jr. I've watched a couple of the production's video blogs and the people involved seem really determined to get it right. I'm excited, but trepidatious.
When Walk the Line came out, one of the failings of that movie, according to Johnny Cash fans I know, was the whole thing about Johnny Cash was his voice. Joaquin Phoenix doing Johnny's voice just didn't play with the true fans. It's the same thing with Christopher Wallace. a big part of his appeal was his voice, especially in his manner of speaking. Can Jamal Woolard pull off B.I.G.'s distinctive timbre? I'm not even talking about the rapping, I just mean conversational speech.
As for the rest of the casting, it looks like they've got a bunch of people who can at least pull off the physical demands of their portrayals. I am especially intrigued with Antonique Smith as Faith Evans (and even just intrigued with the woman generally after seeing her in a Beatles t-shirt. Zowie!) Getting Angela Bassett for Biggie's mom was a nice boon. Speaking of Ms. Bassett, whatever happened to the talk of Shakespeare's Macbeth starring her and Laurence Fishburne?
New York Magazine has posted a review of the Notorious script and they are not hopeful. they think that the scope of the movie is too big. with Biggie's managers and mother all involved, it might be a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth. Christopher Wallace means something very profound but different to each of them, and there's no way to please everyone. I remember reading Spike Lee's production journal for Malcolm X, and the trouble he had with all of the various interested parties who each had their own interest in how Malcolm was portrayed. But at the end of the day, Spike had to take all of their opinions under advisement but then go off and do his own thing. There is the potential for Notorious to play like Man in the Moon where it wasn't a story so much as a re-enactment of a series of moments from the man's life.
But I hope new York Magazine is wrong. I am a huge Biggie fan. I mean, HUGE. this is just about as exciting for me as it would be if they were making a Beatles movie. So now we wait, and we watch. we watch the production video blogs, we watch the press, and we watch to see if this movie lives up to B.I.G.'s legacy.