Top critical review
31 people found this helpful
Good Character Study Drama
on 14 June 2007
"Black Snake Moan", much like the recent "Bridge to Terabithia", is one of the many victims of a misleading advertising campaign. The movie has been marketed as some sort of depraved sex story akin to a teenager's wet dream. However, "Black Snake Moan" is not such an exploitative motion picture as posters and trailers might suggest. Instead it's a story about two people who form a close bond by whatever means, discovering equality and understanding between each other even as they continue to make questionable decisions the other might not like. More a character study than a sleazy teen boob-movie, "Black Snake Moan" is instead a deeper, more meaningful movie that's more valuable than the movie it has been marketed as.
Much different to previous roles in "Snakes on a Plane" and "Cursed" respectively, Samuel L. Jackson and Christina Ricci take on the parts of lead characters Lazarus and Rae. Lazarus' marriage to his younger wife has recently collapsed, thus causing the god-fearing man to exclude friends and family as his embarassment over his unceremonious split tears him apart. When a battered nymphomaniac named Rae turns up unconscious on the road outside his house, Lazarus carries her inside and begins giving her medicine and water until she regains her health. During her delusional waking instances (each lasting only a few minutes) it becomes clear to Lazarus that Rae is a sex-addicted soul that he believes needs healing of her 'wickedness'. Rae awakes to find herself chained to the radiator, with Lazarus refusing to release her until she is cured. Bizarrely enough, it is these developments that eventually lead to the two forming a mutual understanding and a sympathetic relationship that both have longed for.
Christina Ricci and Samuel L. Jackson are front-and-centre in almost every scene, and the movie is reliant on their two respective performances because of this. Thankfully, though, the two actors are talented enough to carry the movie and share an artistic chemistry that lends strength to proceedings even as their awkward relationship appears more and more dysfunctional. Justin Timberlake is seen only for a few scenes throughout and receives nowhere near the amount of character work and emotional depth attributed to his in-movie girlfriend Rae and Lazarus. Timberlake plays Rae's armybound boyfriend, unaware that his girlfriend's nymphomania is raging the very moment he fights abroad. Timberlake isn't spectacular, and apparently doesn't feel like trying out a southern accent. Elsewhere, S. Epatha Merkerson is a likeable presence as Angela, a kind-hearted pharmacist who helps out Lazarus with his medicines.
"Black Snake Moan" is a good film that can only aspire to be a great one. The characters are well-rounded and built upon enough to make the audience empathize with them and understand some of the decisions and mistakes they make resultantly. The characterization, however, doesn't benefit from several unnecessary plot devices -- including Timberlake's character, Angela the pharmacist, and several others. Were "Black Snake Moan" more content with maintaining focus upon the two main characters (sort of like "Hard Candy" did) as opposed to getting sidetracked at seemingly random moments, the movie would certainly have been more an enjoyable movie. There's no doubt, at least, that Jackson and Ricci are capable of achieving something along those lines.
Early indications may lead viewers to believe that "Black Snake Moan" is going to be emphatic too much on religion. However, such is not the case, with religion solely being used as a method of adding to Lazarus' character and explaining his motives for what he does throughout. So cynics don't have to be fearful of any sort of religious-based dialogue other than on a few occasions where christianity is referenced and used as a means of offering hope to Rae and Lazarus respectively.
Overall, "Black Snake Moan" is unspectacular and isn't likely to retain a place in one's long-term memory. It isn't memorable enough to be announced as something great nor is it poignant enough to be a superior emotional picture. As is, "Black Snake Moan" is passable entertainment, unique in style and storytelling so much that I'd still recommend seeing it.