Now Playing: Cadillac Records
Topic: Movie Reviews
Let me clear the air in case you have the same fears that I had about Cadillac Records. Cadillac Records is not the Beyonce Knowles movie. As a matter of fact, she doesn’t show up until halfway through the film. Her performance was surprisingly good and raw. When you hear her curse up a blue-streak as the damaged blues singer Etta James, you get the feeling that the Beyonce Knowles we see in the media is a fake and this is how she really gets down behind the scenes.
CR had two things going for it that did make me want to see it. First was the incomparable and oft-under mentioned Jeffrey Wright. The second was director Darnell Martin who I liked since she had made since her first flick, I Like It Like That. Neither disappointed in this too-short biopic about Chess Records, the record company that pushed blues into the forefront of American culture and laid down the foundation for what we now call Rock-n-Roll.
Darnell neither demonizes nor canonizes the troubled musicians that make up the roster of Chess Records. She shows artists, like Muddy Waters, Little Walter, and Etta James, as musical geniuses with a whole lot of personal problems. Even better is her portrayal of Leonard Chess, one of the brothers who founded Chess records. Although he is a white man giving black artists a chance to make records, earn money and get on the radio waves, he is also shown as more than a savior. He’s a crook with a heart. The stories of the artists and their Svengali that Darnell weaves leave you wanting to know more. Each person could be the story of their very on biopic.
Each actor stands out in this movie. Mos Def proves to be a talented, charismatic, and engaging actor. Jeffrey Wright, as usual, is excellent. Beyonce shows her acting chops. Adrien Brody is solid and intense, as normal. The stand out in this film, however, is the relatively unknown Columbus Short playing the self-destructive Little Walter. When Little Walter’s seduction of his mentor Muddy Waters’ wife is rejected, you can feel it. Once he realized that he has crossed the line, the guilt, pain and frustration is written all over his face. I’d like to see him nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar.
This movie made me want to smoke a cigarette, drink a brown liquor, and f*** like only a good blues song can.