Notorious movie review - biggie smalls tribute film
Review of Notorious movie
(note, reviews may contain spoilers)
Based on the life of Christopher Wallace aka Biggie Smalls, the film begins with narration by the voice of Jamal Woolard who plays Biggie. He says that God started life for him with a clean slate but growing up in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, there was no chance for a clean, good kid to stay that way. The story begins with Biggie walking down the street as a young kid (the young Biggie is played by his real life son,Christopher Jordan Wallace). He is walking with his mom Voletta Wallace, played by Angela Bassett, praising him for doing so well in school. She calls him "Chrissy Poo" and he gets embarrassed. They get interrupted by a man in their path, in front of their home. His mother introduces him as Biggie's father. Biggie can't remember him and it is like meeting his father for the first time. It's a brief moment that does not last as a reconciliation between father and son. From that early age, Biggie throws his anger into starting to rap his feelings.
He is rude to his teacher when he feels provoked (His teacher had told him that he would end up as a garbage man if he didn't study). The clever retort that gets Biggie kicked out of the classroom is his saying that he did his research- "a teacher makes $24,000 a year and a garbage man makes $28,000 a year. That means I'll make $4,000 more than [the teacher]..."
Shortly after, Biggie finds out that his girlfriend is pregnant. After the initial shock, Chris makes his girlfriend happy by saying he will take care of her.
Biggie's mom kicks him out of the house when all at once, she learns that he is failing in school, his girlfriend is pregnant, and he's dealing drugs.
Biggie then continues his drug dealing including selling crack to a pregnant woman. When his fellow drug dealer questions him, he says "I ain't no social worker." He quickly ends up in jail.
He calls his mom and asks her to pray for him. She says she never stopped. They pray together over the telephone.
Biggie remains in jail through the birth of his daughter. He meets her for the first time when she is a few months old, reunites with his girlfriend, and reconciles with his mother (who says he'll make a great father).
He narrates, "having a daughter made me want to be a different kind of cat and not being able to support her felt like a whole new kind of jail."
Biggie begins to work more on his music. He signs for a record deal. He cheats on the mother of his daughter with Lil Kim, as depicted in the film. He uses a familiar line to charm her, "I got you."
Later, the record deal Biggie thought he had falls through and he begins hustling again. He and his friend are apprehended for carrying an illegal firearm. The film depicts that his friend takes the blame since only one of them technically needs to "go down". His friend convinces Biggie that he has too much talent and skills to go to jail again and that with his priors, he would get more time, 5-6 years for the crime.
His friend goes to jail and Biggie goes on to launch his music career. He befriends Tupac Shakur (2-Pac) who is already successful in music at that time. At a club, Biggie teases Kim, saying "Look at that fine girl." She gets upset and says, "which one." He points and says, "That one." She turns and she's facing a mirror. She's flattered and all is well again, until...
Biggie learns his mother has breast cancer. He has a lot of trouble dealing with this. At the same time, he is beginning to be paid really well by Bad Boy Entertainment Records.
The film goes on to depict Biggie reaching great heights of success with his music, while womanizing and partying a lot. In the studio, he's creating great rhymes:
"It was all a dream, I used to read Word Up Magazine...
I'm blowing up like you knew I would..
If you don't know, now you know...."
"If they didn't know Puff Daddy (P.Diddy) and Biggie Smalls before, they sure know us now."
At a party, he announces on stage, "Brooklyn, We did it!"
He meets Faith Evans and narrates, "When I see Faith, all I could think was damn, she's like some chick fresh off a movie screen."
She asks him what he was doing before he hooked up with Puff (P. Diddy). Biggie replies, "Pharmaceuticals." She asks, "Are you a good boy trying to be bad or a bad boy trying to be good." After some charming ("Can I be the guy who makes you laugh?"), he wins Faith over, subsequently marrying her.
Kim sees the whole romance unfold before her and throws her own anger into her music, as the film depicts.
Faith later catches Biggie cheating on HER and pours her heart into her own lyrical story. She sings, "I remember the way you used to love me..."
These musical moments take the audience back to that great music of the mid-late 90s.
Faith and Biggie reconcile. Since things "got cool" with Biggie and Faith, Biggie took his show (Junior Mafia) on the road.
Biggie goes to the top of the Billboard charts many times over and gains the wealth he wants. In a foreshadowing moment, he narrates, "Like Pac said, once you go up, you can only come down."
Much scandal ensues, with Tupac getting beaten in a lobby. Big claims that Tupac had difficulty trusting and thought he was being set up.
East-West coast rivalry develops in the rap music scene including in the lyrics of Tupac's songs. After seeing a magazine cover with Tupac and Faith, Biggie accuses Faith of cheating on him with Tupac. He becomes aggressive, and this time, his charming apology doesn't work for a reconciliation.
Things unravel and in one instance, Biggie needs a morale boost from P. Diddy before getting on stage. He can't find size 14 shoes to fit him and go on stage. Eventually, he gets some and goes on. The rival continues between East and West coast. The film depicts the rivalry to be fueled by the media. Biggie narrates, "The industry can turn your best friends into your worst enemies.."
Tupac Shakur gets killed in a driveby shooting in Las Vegas at the age of 25.
Biggie's mother comforts him by phone. "I saw [Tupac's] mother on tv. She is a strong woman...But no mother should have to bury her child."
Biggie later gets into a car accident and watches Richard Pryor's comedy on television, while he heals.
He has a revelation and tries to make a change. He visits has firstborn (his daughter). He had also bore a son with Faith Evans. When he visited the old neighborhood, he observes that the woman that he once dealt drugs to while she was pregnant, has now cleaned up.
Biggie also evolves lyrically and narrates, "If the game makes me or breaks me, I hope it makes me a better man." Biggie decides to go to LA to promote his second album. With the tension of the East-West coast rivalry, his mother is concerned, but he is not afraid to go. He calls the mothers of his two children to reconcile and asks them to bring the children to LA for the album promotion. He also calls a third woman, his then current girlfriend (presumed to be Charlie Baltimore) to reconcile with her after an argument as well. He is lovable to everyone despite everything.
He narrates, "All my life, I was trying to be a man. I felt like I didn't have to try anymore...My second album was about to drop and I felt like God was giving me a clean slate all over again"...
As portrayed in the film, that night in 1997, Biggie was killed in a driveby shooting at the age of 24. His body was flown back to his home in New York. There was an outpouring of love and support throughout New York City and for the funeral procession in Brooklyn.
Ms. Wallace played by Angela Bassett, narrates,
"My son told stories [in his music].
Some of them were sad.
Some of them were violent.
But people listened."
With its fair share of artistic licensing as all films based on true life will have, this is an excellent portrayal chronicling the life of Christopher Wallace, Biggie Smalls. The film is notable as a tribute.
I rate it 4/5 stars ****
Directed by George Tillman Jr.
Written by Reggie Rock Bythewood and Cheo Hodari Coker
Executive Producer Sean 'P. Diddy' Combs
Other Producers include Voletta Wallace
Jamal Woolard as Christopher Wallace (Biggie)
Christopher Jordan Wallace as young Biggie
Angela Bassett as Voletta Wallace
Derek Luke as Sean 'Puffy' Combs
Naturi Naughton as Lil Kim
Anthony Mack as Tupac Shakur
Antonique Smith as Faith Evans