“Notorious” (2009) is a film about the life of rapper Notorious B.I.G., also known as Biggie Smalls. I liked it even though I have never been a fan of his music.
By far the best part of the film came at the end, at the funeral: the long line of black cars crossing the East River on the bridge from Manhattan to take his body home to Brooklyn; Angela Bassett seen through the car window, the pain of losing her only child written on her face. It was hard not to be moved.
Not only was Angela Bassett great and not only do funeral processions get to me for some reason, but as someone who has lived on the other side of that river it was great to see it shown as a place that matters.
Angela Bassett played Biggie’s mother. It was pointed out that she was from Jamaica, yet throughout the film she spoke in an American accent. Strange. Bassett was good otherwise, but probably too good for a supporting character.
I liked how they showed both the good and bad sides of Biggie. It is not the story of a hip hop saint. For example, they show him selling crack to a woman who was going to have a baby and calling Lil Kim a bitch.
They put Lil Kim in a bad light, but as played by Naturi Naughton of 3LW she was great to look at – even with her clothes on.
Faith Evans, Biggie’s wife, was put in a good light. I liked her as played by Antonique Smith of “Rent”: the way she smiled, the way she liked Biggie for who he was, the way she did not put on airs as beautiful as she was. And for some reason I loved her accent, reminding me of some world I had forgotten. (Like Bassett, she used her own accent, not her character’s.)
Sean Combs was put in a good light throughout – so much so that I thought he must have had a hand in making the film. As it turns out he did: he was the executive producer! Which makes the whole film suspect since Combs profits from the sale of Biggie’s music.
Combs in the film is far more reserved and gentlemanly than the one we know through television and music videos, even if he does have the same boldness and confidence.
You kept having to remind yourself who he was. The same was true for Tupac.
The whole East Coast / West Coast thing that played such a big part in Biggie’s death, at least as it was reported by the press, was not believable the way they presented it in the film. Well, come to think of it, it was not believable back then in 1997 either, at least not as something that could have a body count.
The tragedy of his death at age 24 did not come across in the film.
Not a perfect film, but still I hope to see it again.