Black Snake Moan
R
Entertainment: +1
Acceptability: -4

Samuel L. Jackson, Christina Ricci, Justin Temberlake. Drama. Written & directed by Craig Brewer.

FILM SYNOPSIS: From the writer and director of the sleeper hit Hustle & Flow comes a gritty, seductive, blues-soaked tale of love, sex, music, and redemption. With a title inspired by a Blind Lemon Jefferson song - and a story driven by the soul-stirring rhythms and themes of blues music writer/director Craig Brewers Black Snake Moan descends into the dark, spellbinding heart of fear and desire and comes out the other side.

Haunted from being sexually abused as a little girl by her trailer-trashy mothers live-in boyfriend, young Rae has become promiscuous. She has deep psychological problems that cause her fears to manifest through nymphomania. As her boyfriend goes off to join the military, she quickly succumbs to sexual desires. Hes not gone two days and already shes had two sexual encounters. The second results in a brutal beating that leaves her on the road in front of the home of Lazarus Woods, a black farmer whose wife has just left him for his brother.

Lazarus is hurting and full of rage, but suddenly theres this brutalized girl whom he quickly discovers to be just as self-abusing as abused. He truly feels sympathy for her. He cleans her up, gets her medicine, then chains her to the couch in order to have the time to set her straight concerning her wicked ways.

At first, Rae is a bit put off by her captivity, but slowly she realizes this man has no intension of hurting or raping her. He wants to help her find peace and redemption.

PREVIEW REVIEW: (But first, the sermon.) By now, Im sure most of my readers are aware of my, uh, appreciation for the female form. Right or wrong, good or bad, righteous or sinful, I enjoy the female form. The story, the camera and the star of Black Snake Moan gave me endless opportunity to feed my, uh, appreciation. Now, hang with me for a minute, Im going somewhere with my earthiness.

There are going to be other men who want to see this film because Ms. Ricci is seen in most of the film wearing nothing but her underwear. And she has worked out to put that near-nakedness into Playboy-ish illumination. So, theyll get to, uh, appreciate Ms. Ricci as much as I did.

Ladies, its natural for us guys to want to look at a beautiful woman with very little on. Its the natural man. And now we live in a culture where females in underwear abound. I even saw a TV commercial the other night that displayed one model after another moving about in the briefest of lingerie. Theres no escaping it.

Alas, I cant completely enjoy the view. Its that darn old spiritual desire in me that demands more than equal time. Biblical teachings keep telling me to dwell on holy things, to aspire to the things above. Whats more, the Bible pretty much makes it clear that Im not supposed to look upon women as sexual objects. So you have the inner man longing to dwell on the female form and the culture saying thats okay, but the Holy Spirit counters with a command that I treat women with respect. Whats a guy who likes good legs to do?

The first thing is to evaluate why you want to go to this movie. Are you going because youre looking for a message film one that addresses redemption and discovering how to treat yourself with respect? Or are you just going to see another fine performance by Sam Jackson? (And that poster of the body-revealing chained-up girl has nothing to do with it.) Well, then youre a better man than I.

God knows our frame. He knows our weaknesses, yet loves us, despite our foibles and faults. What truly pleases Him, along with faith, is our desire to follow the example of His Son (the result of faith). You see that young woman jogging in short shorts and you look the other way, rather than dwell on her. That pleases Him. Youve shown respect for the girl and said with your actions that you truly want to follow Jesus. If youre anything like me, the success rate is about 40-60. But I actually feel joy when I look the other way. I feel His pleasure when I succeed out of a righteous desire.

Its not a numbers game. God wont be saying, You did this many things right and only this many things wrong, therefore, you may enter my kingdom. He measures the desire of our heart, not the number of triumphs. Just think, isnt there someone in your life who has often failed you, but you remember one moment where they showed their loyalty or friendship or love and that moment outweighs their misdemeanors? I dont mean to be presumptuous, but I kind of think its the same way with our Redeemer.

The more we grow in our spiritual walk, the more often we will desire to look the other way. The more we dwell on things above, the less time we will spend with the lusts of this world. Im not a hypocrite, just a man; therefore there will be times when I falter and let the natural man win out over the spiritual one. But I pledge to you, that I will never watch this film again. I wont stumble over Christina Riccis form. Hope you guys wont, either.

You dont hear me often sermonize. I understand that youve reading me for a film review, not a Sunday School lesson. But sexuality is very much a part of Black Snake Moan, so I felt it needed to be addressed. Im hoping the Holy Spirit will use my meager abilities to aid my brothers in Christ. There is a moral to the story and the acting is fine, but I think the sensuality will be the allurement for many men. Cant answer for you ladies, but guys arent going to this one for a deep message.

As for the review, well, this is a bizarre concept for a film story. This is not an era when you can chain up a girl in order to set her on the right path. In the film, her captivity is discovered by Lazarus pastor, who goes along with his friend. In real life, that would be two men going to jail. By films end, Rae is seeing clearly that her destructive ways are not solving the problems of her past. But in reality her troubled soul needs considerable healing. Maybe shell make it, maybe not. We dont know by films end. But there was something untrue about her character. I come back to the films main draw, a young woman in her underwear. Would she really have the body of a fashion model? This is a girl who has abused drugs, alcohol and her body for years. Would she really look like shed been in the hands of a physical trainer? I think not.

As for the theme of redemption, that also rang false. I dont see much of a lifestyle change. He goes back to performing songs containing profanity and obscenity, while she sensually dances with everyone in the place, including some women. The ending does offer hope for these characters, but we have to sit through a great deal of sexploitation to get to it.

Video Alternative: Les Miserables. The 1978 version with Richard Jordan and Anthony Perkins comes the closest to capturing Victor Hugos inspirational message of forgiveness and redemption. When a thief is pardoned by a priest, the Christian example changes his life and he finds himself living for others.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Distributor: Paramount Vantage

Summary
Crude Language: Some crude sexual references.
Obscene Language: Both the music and the narrative are littered with harsh obscenity, with at least 30 variations of the f-word; around 40 uses of the s-word and an assortment of other objectionable language, including a few uses of the N-word by both whites and blacks.
Profanity: Around 20 profane uses of Gods name, many from a man who quotes the Bible.
Violence: Most of the sexual situations have a gruff, brutish quality; the girl is savagely beaten towards the beginning, she wears a bruised and blackened eye throughout; there are a couple of fights; the girl is held against her will; a man points a gun at his friend; another man aims a gun at another. Blood: Some blood from the girls beating.
Sexual Intercourse: he picture opens with a graphic sex scene between the female lead and her live-in boyfriend; there are several other graphic sex scenes there to depict her lifestyle; the girl suffers with nymphomania, we see these spells come upon her, where she finds ways to masturbate.
Nudity: We see girls playing strip football; the lead female is seen topless.
Homosexual Conduct: None, though there is one sensual dance where the female lead dances provocatively with another girl.
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: A great deal of sexually themed dialogue.
Drug Abuse: Drinking, smoking throughout; drug use a few times.
Other: None
Running Time: 115 minutes
Intended Audience: Adults

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