Opening 5 Jul 2007
This slow southern film made in Tennessee, USA, combines sex, religion, and music. Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson) loses his wife after 12 years of marriage to no one other than his own brother. After a short fit of anger, he retires to his simple house in the country to tend to his crops, where he finds a half-dead, half-naked girl. She is Rae (Christina Ricci), the local white trash tramp, on the prowl for men since her boyfriend left for the army. He takes her into his house, treats her wounds and finally chains her to the radiator to prevent a return to her previous lifestyle. Lazarus doesn’t have this Biblical name for nothing. He calls on the Lord for strength and says, “God seen fit to put you in my path.” He engages his local friend and pastor to “break the hold the devil got on you.” Gradually she faces her demons, which reach back to childhood abuse and a non-supportive mother. In the end she marries boyfriend Ronnie (Justin Timberlake), and they drive off into the sunset to an uncertain future, as both of them will probably never be stable enough to survive without help.
This film by director/writer Craig Brewer continues his Hustle & Flow preoccupation with the American south and the relationship between unlike personalities, in this case one black and fervently religious and the other white and self-destructively out of control. There are 27 songs, mostly blues, some sung by Jackson, Ricci and S. Epatha Merkerson (who plays Lazarus’ new girlfriend Miss Angie). I thought the film was too long and repetitious, but one real highlight is the metamorphosis of Christine Ricci from plump brunette (Ice Storm, 1997; Buffalo 66, 1998) to a very svelte, skinny blond in this film. Black Snake Moan was one of the song titles, but I still don’t know what it actually means. (Becky Tan)