Black Snake Moan (7/10)
by Tony Medley
The trailer does a disservice
to this movie. The trailer, showing Rae (Christina Ricci), a beautiful
young blond, chained by Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson), looks more like a
gothic horror movie than a love story, which is what it is.
With a basis in blues music,
after Rae’s boyfriend, Ronnie (Justin Timberlake), leaves her to go back
to his tour of duty in the armed forces, Rae drowns her sorrows by
reverting to her loose sexual mores and gets more and more in the dumps.
Finally, she is beaten up and dumped on the highway where the elderly
black man, Lazarus, finds her. Lazarus is equally beaten up emotionally
as his wife has just dumped him for his best friend.
The film starts with vintage
footage of 1930s blues legend Son House, who says, “There’s only one
kind of blues…that consists between male and female.” The title refers
to a song written by Blind Lemon Jefferson, who wrote a song about going
blind, entitled, “Black Snake Moan,” from a line in the song about
“black snakes crawling over me,” referring to his impending blindness.
Craig Brewer, who wrote and directed, said, “It proved the perfect
metaphor for a pivotal scene in the film…where Lazarus and Rae are
confronting their darkest secrets.” Actually, this scene was the only
one in the film where I lost connection with the movie. It was
melodramatic and completely lost me because it seemed to lack the
substance that the drama was trying to convey. And the song isn’t very
But for those few moments,
however, this was a film that grabbed me from the outset and kept hold
of me throughout. Lots of people might stay away from this because of
the ill-advised promotion and an equally ill-advised title. Too bad,
because it is an entertaining, feel-good movie, highlighted by a fine
performance by Jackson, who learned to play the guitar for the movie and
also does his own singing. As fine as Jackson is, however, Ricci is
spectacular as the highly damaged woman of easy virtue.