tek's rating: ½

Idlewild (R)
IMDb; Rotten Tomatoes; Universal; Wikipedia

Caution: spoilers.

Um... I wasn't quite sure where to put this review. I was considering "weird," as well as "musical," but I guess "period" is most apt. It starts, I would guess, in the early 1920s, but most of the story is set in 1935. There's a guy named Percival Jenkins (played by André Benjamin, aka André 3000, aka one half of hip-hop duo OutKast) and a guy named Rooster (played by Antwan A. Patton, aka Big Boi, aka the other half of OutKast). Percy and Rooster have been friends since they were kids. Percy played piano, and Rooster was a singer. Rooster's uncle was a gangster in the southern town of Idlewild, but he died when Rooster was a kid. He had a partner called Spats, who I guess was sort of like a godfather to Rooster. Percy's father ran a mortuary, and taught Percy to go into the family business. But when they grew up, Rooster worked as a singer in a nightclub called Church, which was run by a guy called Ace. And Rooster got Percy a job there as a piano player (though he still worked days at the mortuary). And the movie is narrated by Percy. And um, Rooster is now married to a woman named Zora, with whom he has a bunch of kids. Zora does not approve of his working at the club. Incidentally, I should mention that the singing Rooster does is actually rapping, which is one of the movie's lesser oddities (it certainly shouldn't have existed as a musical style, at that time).

Anyway... this famous singer named Angel Davenport comes to Idlewild to sing at Church, having been given a four week contract by Ace. Meanwhile, Spats is planning to retire, and wants to sell his operation to Ace for $25,000. But there's this other guy called Trumpy, who I guess is Spats's second in command or whatever. He ends up killing both Spats and Ace, and taking over Spats's liquor-running operation. (Incidentally, I only know the year because of a date that appears on a gravestone near the end of the movie. I wasn't sure exactly when Prohibition ended, so I looked it up... 1933, two years before the movie is set, so that doesn't really make much sense.) Meanwhile, Rooster takes over Church, which means he inherits the club's debts, one of which was to Spats. So now he has to pay that back to Trumpy, but Trumpy doubles the price of hooch, which means Rooster has to acquire it elsewhere, or else be unable to make a profit, and therefor unable to pay back his debt.

Meanwhile, Angel and Percy become friends (and possibly more). Percy is a songwriter as well as a piano-player, and Angel will eventually sing one of his songs. But I should mention she has a major secret, which I won't reveal. But she'll eventually want Percy to go to Chicago with her, where she's been offered another gig. He's been sticking around Idlewild to take care of his widower father, but his dad kind of seems like a jerk. And eventually there'll be big trouble between Rooster and Trumpy. And that's all I want to reveal of the plot.

So... of course there's plenty of good music. While Rooster's sounds pretty modern, Percy's sounds much more suited to the era in which the film is set (which I think is fairly appropriate to the people playing each character). And there is some weird stuff... both Percy and Rooster seem to occasionally have little hallucinations or something, most notably Rooster... He has a flask inherited from his uncle, which has a rooster embossed on it, and the image sometimes moves and speaks to him. I do like such surreal touches, though they're too few to make the movie truly "weird." The story itself is okay, though I fear it's in a precarious position where it's too unbelievable to take quite seriously, and yet too believable to work as some kind of absurdist art film. But it's not a bad movie, and like I said... the music is pretty good (as are the accompanying dance routines). So if you're a fan of OutKast, it's definitely worth checking out. If you're a fan of Prohibition era gangster movies, maybe you'll like it and maybe you won't, I really couldn't say.


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