A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
I had never really heard many half-snorts before. Snorts, yes, and silence. But what do you make of an audience that has no idea how to react? "Black Snake Moan" is the oddest, most peculiar movie I've seen about sex and race and redemption in the Deep South. It may be the most peculiar recent movie ever except for "Road House," but then what can you say about "Road House"? Such movies defy all categories.
The movie -- I will try to be concise -- stars Samuel L. Jackson as a broken-down blues musician and vegetable market gardener whose wife has just walked out. On the road leading to his property he finds the battered body of a young white girl, whose injuries hardly seem curable by the cough syrup he barters fresh vegetables for at the drugstore. The girl is Rae (Christina Ricci); it is no coincidence that Jackson's character is named Lazarus, and Lazarus determines to return her from near death or whooping cough, one or the other. No saint himself, he wants to redeem her from a life of sluttery.
His technique, with a refreshing directness, is to chain her to a radiator. Good thing he lives way out in the wilderness. Lazarus and Rae have no sex per se, but they do a powerful lot of slapping, cursing and chain-rattling, and the reaction of the blue-collar town on Market Day is a study. I think the point is that Lazarus and Rae somehow redeem each other through these grotesqueries, a method I always urge be used with extreme caution.
The performances are very good: Hell-bent for leather, and better than the material deserves, there is much hysteria and snot. The writer-director, Craig Brewer, made that other splendid story of prostitution and redemption, "Hustle & Flow," with its Oscar-winning song ("It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp") In fact, I pretty much enjoyed the whole movie, with some incredulity and a few half-snorts.