“Black Snake Moan” rolls in artistic splendor, but it’s certainly not intended for the casual moviegoer.The film is set in a small Tennessee town where two unlikely characters are brought together at a crossroad between rage and love. Lazarus, played by Samuel L. Jackson, stumbles across 22-year-old Rae, played by Christina Ricci (“Monster”), beaten and helpless on the side of the road, and takes it upon himself to rescue her. Desperate for a change himself, Lazarus holds Rae prisoner and sets out to “cure” her of her wicked ways.
If there is anything this film is not, it’s normal. No aspect of this film is in tune with popular culture or the huge “blockbuster” hits of our time, and yet it is wonderful – a true diamond in the rough. Although certifiably 100 percent outrageous, the story is perfectly pieced together and begs the viewer’s attention in every scene. On a deeper level beyond the literal plot, the film attempts to drive out the inner demons of human emotions, and shamelessly lay them all out on the table for society to sort through.
The film’s brilliance is carried through its actors. Rather than just acting out their characters, Ricci and Jackson lead the cast by managing to become their characters. As the old washed-out blues player, Jackson puts on a stunning portrayal of a man who has given up and relies on drunkenness and rage to solve his problems. Jackson can really sing the blues too.
Ricci does an outstanding job bringing out all the emotions her character possesses at exactly the right time. In fact, the worst acting in this film was done by Justin Timberlake (“Alpha Dog”) who plays Ricci’s boyfriend Ronnie, but he wasn’t bad, being a newcomer to the film industry.
The film’s ability to tear raw emotion out of an audience is by far it’s most important aspect. In a two-hour time period we are led to laugh, cry, feel all alone, feel intense anger, scoff, show empathy and hate the characters. This roller coaster of emotions unravels one of the truths of life – that our emotions are never in a constant state. “Black Snake Moan” serves as a window into our souls by giving us a tour into the souls of the characters. Over Spring Break, make time to go see this film. There is bound to be something that agrees with you: the artistic perfection, the music, the story, the actors, the emotion or the good looks of either Ricci or Timberlake.
Five out of five stars.