Welcome to the third installment of the Screenplays with Unconventional Connections series. The first installment showed the similar story beats of First Blood and A History of Violence, and the second with Velvet Goldmine and Citizen Kane. With this third entry, we’ll look at two new movies that follow the same beats, this time with both of them set in the music world.
Our movies in question are Purple Rain from 1984 and 8 Mile from 2002. As far as I know, these two movies are never brought up in conversation together. Rapper 50 Cent’s movie, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, got called his 8 Mile at the time of release, but that sums up comparisons. Purple Rain and 8 Mile will now be part of the conversation, at least in the case of this series. Both share the same skeleton in numerous ways.
Both Prince and Eminem are portrayed as struggling Mid-westerners (stories are set in both Minneapolis and Detroit) who dream of success in the music business. Eminem goes to open mic rap battles, and Prince plays in a band at a club, to show their skills to an audience. Unfortunately, both seem to choke when it’s their chance to shine.
When the time comes to rap, Rabbit (played by Eminem) just can’t think of the appropriate rhyme/diss to use on his opponent, and gets booed off stage. The same goes for Kid (played by Prince) when he tries to sing his material, the crowd just doesn’t feel it. He too gets booed off stage. They both doubt whether or not they can actually succeed.
Since both of these characters are struggling artists, it would make logical story sense for the use of an obstacle to prevent them from succeeding. Not just an unfriendly crowd, but a musical rival that attempts to upstage/taunt them in any way they can.
The nemesis in both movies take the form of Morris Day in Purple Rain and Anthony Mackie in 8 Mile. The two performers are in the same musical world as our heroes, and each attempt to shut them down in their own way. Which helps to motivate Rabbit and Kid to further achieve their dreams.
Mackie is part of a rival crew that show up regularly to rap battles and other hip hop hotspots. He and his crew outperform Rabbit early on, and keep attempting to prevent him from success. Morris Day and his band churn out catchy tunes and have a memorable dance routine (that got parodied in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back).
These musical foes, unfortunately, are not the only roadblocks for our insecure singers. As viewers learn later on, Rabbit and Kid’s personal woes go beyond the club. When they arrive home, chaos greets them at the door.
An Unstable Home
These men spend what free time they can crafting lyrics and developing methods of being the best they can be. Art is used as an outlet to escape the harshness and ugliness of reality. A safe space for the creative and inspired is a lot nicer than the hostility life serves you. We see this in the home life of both of our characters.
After choking in a rap battle, and working a shift at a local factory, Rabbit goes back home to a trailer he shares with his mom and little sister. His mom spends her days drinking, hanging out with her useless boyfriend, and neglecting her children. Rabbit has to go out and take care of everyone all on his own.
Kid lives in what appears to be a rank basement. His parents are constantly fighting with one another, and his father is abusive toward his mother. Kid even has to step in to shield his mother from his violent father. The madness never seems to stop.
As Kid fights his father, Rabbit too starts a fight with his mother’s boyfriend. Each movie features an explosive confrontation between families, but also with others they care about. These raw emotions are able to tap into what seemed to be the missing piece in making great music.
These movies start with each character making some form of error during a performance. They get booed and their audiences doubt the talent they possess. As we approach the third act, Kid and Rabbit finally get to have their time to show them what they have.
Kid sings Purple Rain, one of his most iconic songs, and absolutely brings the house down with it. During the rap battle, Rabbit shoots rhymes out like an uzi and he too makes the audience go wild. Our underdogs reign supreme at the end of the movie earning respect from their peers, and in the old Hollywood tradition, get the girl at the end.
Besides the emotional elements, both movies use non-diegetic sound in the form of soundtracks to build up to the grand finale. While the characters are not successful at first, the movie soundtracks are filled with songs by each artist. Getting audiences pumped in the hopes that the singer they adore will show their awesome skills onscreen.
Final Thoughts On Both Movies
For non-actors, both Prince and Eminem radiate charisma onscreen to show underdogs who refuse to give up. They have a dream and fight with their mind, body, and spirit. An encouraging message for every struggling artist to see and to try to achieve.
Purple Rain and 8 Mile both keep that American “can do” attitude found in movies like Rocky and other crowd-pleasers. Given we’re all stuck in our homes for the time being, give both of these movies a chance. Feelings of defeat will evaporate, and watching these two fight for their dream will give hope and inspiration to viewers of any age.
Do these movies follow similar beats? Do you have a favorite underdog story? Please leave a comment below.
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