Cadillac Records is the story of Chess records, a record company in the Fifties that signed African American youth to sing blues, soul and rock and roll. It's so loosely based on the actual story that you have to remind yourself that it's not a spoof film. Some of these things happened. But that doesn't give them any right to put it on film. And Chess Records? Oh, now I get it – black and white pieces on the same board? Nope. It's the owner's name, Leonard Chess (Adrien Brody). There is no deeper meaning. If you can grasp that now you have a fighting chance of making it to the end of this movie.
It tries so desperately to be a meaningful portrayal of hardship and struggle of African Americans in the early days of music that it falls short of the point. I've seen better emotional acting from Bill Cosby. There is no mighty victory over evil, no great triumph of will. It's like watching a blind man aim at a 3 inch dartboard with a needle from across the room. Bad ideas flowed from the movie like whiskey from a crystal spring. Beyonce as a singing drug addict? How whimsical. Mos Def crooning fifties rock and roll? It's a winner. And the sweat? I was terrified to look up at the screen in case the sweat leaked from it. Why is it mandatory that in every "struggle" film there has to be so much sweat? Somebody just give them a fucking towel.
All sympathy for the characters vanishes as you calmly remember that in real life they are rich beyond our imagination and treated like royalty. I did not see Etta James writhing on the floor all drugged up, I saw Beyonce Knowles trying to remember how trashed she was at the last Destiny's Child reunion. She wears that ridiculous Amy Winehouse meets Tina Turner wig and disappears up Adrien Brody's gaping nostrils for most of their dialogue. At least I did. What director aims his camera right up the nostrils of the only Jewish man on set? That anti-semitic bastard should learn to practice what he preaches.
After feverishly trying to bring some substance into the script, television director Darnell Martin forcefully cascades into an over-emotional, over-acted synthetic stage play. This is what happens when repetitive themes from Law and Order are applied to a movie. Chuck Berry (Mos Def) is incarcerated for sleeping with white women. Etta James (Beyonce Knowles) has a white father who doesn't want to know her. Geneva (Gabrielle Union) has to deal with a man who sleeps around. Does the stereotyping never end? I kept waiting for the scene when Oprah's character from the Color Purple would come screaming out from behind a well placed bush and wave an angry fist at the racist white policemen.
Damn me for saying so but with a Hollywood budget I expect an action packed ending. What I don't expect are the main characters to die and a random songwriter who you see maybe twice during the movie to claim all the riches at the end. That's not satisfying. After everything I just sat through for 109 minutes I want a big car crash, I want a scorned lover to take her revenge, I want a decent murder scene! I don't want a monotone narrator to tell me the guy's dead when he flops forward onto his Cadillac and it just, kind of, stops. Eh. This movie is so entirely unsubstantiated and so incredibly useless that it might as well be shelved next to "Josie and the Pussycats" for all its historical relevance. Don't watch this movie if you're African American, Hispanic or from any other ethnic minorities, it will piss you off. White people shouldn't see it either. We can finally use this as a true rallying point, and together we can unite and rid the world of Darnell Martin and his stupid, stupid ideas.
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