Black Snake Moan

You will be hard-pressed to find a cinematic experience quite like Black Snake Moan. Most films tackle social issues one or two at a time. BSM decides to go after race, religion, female sexuality, domestic violence, drug addiction, mental disorders and more in one of the most bizarre routes possible.


Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson) is a devout Christian and retired jazz musician still healing from the wounds of a failed marriage. Rae (Christina Ricci) is a sex addicted, emotionally unstable young woman losing control after her boyfriend (Justin Timberlake) leaves for the army. Lazarus takes her in against her will and sets her along the right path while stabilizing his own life.

Set in the South with a soundtrack of twangy blues music, there is very little about this movie that you can truly be against. It is by no means heartwarming due to the graphic nature of Rae’s downfall and the fact that Lazarus imprisons her, but at no point are his intentions questioned, making the audience hope for the best. By far the best scenes are when Jackson shows off his musical talent. These are the best views into what is hurting Lazarus and how much he has been through, while showing Jackson’s range as well. Ricci, on the other hand, gives her solid performance through reckless abandon. There is no denying Rae’s instability and borderline insanity (wait for the rattlesnake-like music), but Ricci brings an energy to the character that allows for pity and sympathy. She tries her hand at singing as well, but it is more or less forgettable. Timberlake has a minor role that influences Rae, but in the overall scope of the film will be irrelevant to how you feel about the film. The focus, and rightfully so, is on the interactions between Rae and Lazarus.

The social issues mentioned above play a pivotal role in how Rae and Lazarus progress. The entire city knows about Rae’s exploits and Lazarus’ marriage, so once they are seen together, questions about race, age and intentions are raised. With regards to the characters’ pasts, there is not as much emphasis as expected. We are given a glimpse into Rae’s dark past through rumors, flashbacks and a scene with her mother, but the emphasis of the movie is her present and what she will do with her future. These pieces serve as clues into Rae’s psyche that force you to question her capability to heal. The same questions arise for Lazarus. We know only what led to his depressed state, and what he plans on doing to correct it.

Jackson and Ricci clearly had fun with their characters, and each other, which makes the dark histories of Lazarus and Rae so much more captivating. You will definitely finish watching with a bewildered look on your face, but you will have enjoyed it. You may not ever know exactly why you enjoyed it, but something about BSM will stick with you.

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