What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this film isn't appropriate for kids, who may know OutKast from the hit song "Hey Ya!" It includes stylized and graphic violence, mostly beatings and shootings of male gangsters, with bloody results (a woman is also shot, though she dies more "delicately" and melodramatically). Female stage dancers wear skimpy costumes, showing breasts (painted) and barely-covered derrieres. A mortician works on bodies, one arriving with blood under its head. A character considers suicide by hanging, going so far as to arrange the noose and chair in his house. A couple of sex scenes: one in the back of a car involves cunnilingus (a man is cheating on his wife); a second scene takes place in a bedroom. Characters use foul language, smoke cigars, cigarettes, and pipes, and drink lots of liquor and champagne in a speakeasy/whorehouse called "Church."
What's the story?
Set in 1935 in Georgia, IDLEWILD opens with a quick and visually quirky trot though what seems a standard best-friends-doomed-to-go-wrong history. Shy Percival (André Benjamin) inherits his mortician father's (Ben Vereen) business, while parentless Rooster (Antwan A. Patton) is all about the hustle. The kids part ways, except for when Percival plays piano in "Church," the speakeasy/whorehouse where Rooster keeps the books and sings. Before Spats (Ving Rhames), the owner of Church, selects his successor, both he and his manager are killed by Trumpy (Terrence Howard). An unseen witness to the murders, Rooster tries to make his own profits by managing Church while paying off Trumpy, who decides the place belongs to him. Percival has his own problems, trying to balance work with playing the piano at night, while also falling in love with new singer Angel (Paula Patton). While the friends' storylines only occasionally intersect, their mutual loyalty helps both to achieve their different dreams.
Is it any good?
Beautifully composed and infectiously energetic, Idlewild often seems more like a two-hour music video than a fully plotted movie. Frequent OutKast collaborator Bryan Barber's first feature extends the twofer project of their 2003 double album Speakerboxx/The Love Below, tweaking gangster movie conventions with brilliant choreography, hip-hop beats, and inventive visual compositions.
Alternating between violence and fabulous, energetic, hip-hoppy dance numbers (and a knockout blues performance by Macy Gray), in addition to Percival Sr.'s devotion to his long-dead wife and Rooster's seemingly divine encounter with a needy grandmother (Cicely Tyson), Idlewild has too much going on. Its interest in dead women is also a little weird. But its mix of eras and aesthetics is invigorating, as are its fantastic dance numbers.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the friendship between Rooster and Percival. Though they hardly appear on screen together, how does the film connect them thematically and aesthetically? How are the protagonists' transformations significant, as the stereotypically "gangster" Rooster become a devoted family man and the shy Percival becomes a star piano player? How does the film use music (singing and dancing) to move the plot? How does Percival's decision to follow his dreams and leave his father's business affect his father?