Cadillac Records

"OK"

Cadillac Records Review


The story about how the white man cheated the African-American out of his rhythm and blues heritage for the cash cow known as rock and roll is by now the stuff of legend. Heck, Little Richard's been living off that storyline for the last 20 years. Still, the truth about how misplaced immigrants teamed up with the marginalized minorities to create the soundtrack to our post-modern life is rife with obstacles, contradictions, and more than a little anecdotal fantasy. Now comes Cadillac Records, hoping to shed light on Leonard Chess and his Chicago blues-based label. Yet by leaving one essential character out, and manufacturing more than little of its so-called truth, it's hard to tell fact from fiction.

Sick of working in the junk business, Leonard Chess (Adrien Brody) decides to open a nightclub on Chicago's predominantly black South Side. When he discovers a Mississippi bluesman named Muddy Waters (Jeffrey Wright), he burns down the club and uses the insurance money to buy a record studio. Soon, Chess has drawn in the likes of Waters, Little Walter (Columbus Short), Howlin' Wolf (Eamonn Walker), Willie Dixon (Cedric The Entertainer) and, famously, Chuck Berry (Mos Def). But when the architect of rock-&-roll ends up in prison for violating the Mann Act, Chess has to find another star. She arrives in the person of Miss Etta James (Beyoncé Knowles), a fiery young singer with a world of pain in her voice. Yet the changing times and shifting musical landscape may just spell the end for Chess, once and for all.

Cadillac Records is a movie of impressions -- both literally and figuratively. On the solid side are amazing turns by Wright, Short, Walker, Cedric, and Mos Def as one gloriously goofy Chuck Berry. Even current superstar Beyoncé isn't completely out of her league here -- she is playing a singer after all. More tenuous is writer/director Darnell Martin's grasp of the truth. There is never a mention of Leonard Chess' brother Phil (who bought into the business with his sibling), nary a nod to producer Phil Bass, and some of the more controversial elements of the studio (lawsuits, drugs, affairs) are swept away under the sonic roar of some amazing musical performances. This is one film that would clearly falter without its unbelievable soundtrack. Apparently, it's easier to ignore the facts when you're snapping your fingers and tapping your toes.

As an example of history at its slightest, Cadillac Records is solid, if superficial. The actors are required to add the depth that Martin's script regularly fails to offer. Elsewhere, intriguing elements are left unexplored. Eamonn Walker's Wolf is a major piece of work, and the ex-Oz man's take on the imposing musician is magical. But we don't get enough of it. Instead, Martin chooses to focus more on harmonica ace Little Walter, and while Short is equally good, his character arc is biopic basic. Even Chuck Berry, who seems to be the most whacked out figure in rock-&-roll's tortured history is relegated to clowning most of the time. And Brody, like Beyoncé, is merely a placeholder for the person he was hired to represent.

Yet there is something undeniable about this film, a subtle, sublime feeling of watching pop culture folklore being crafted right before our eyes. When Walker wails on Wolf's "Smoke Stack Midnight" or Wright wriggles to Water's seminal track "Hoochie Coochie Man," no fact-checking can stop the sensation. If one remembers this is a movie, and not a documentary, you'll walk away satisfied. But as a tribute to Chess and its importance to modern music, this is half-baked heritage, entertaining but incomplete.

He used to carry a guitar in a gunny sack.



Cadillac Records

Facts and Figures

Run time: 109 mins

In Theaters: Friday 5th December 2008

Box Office USA: $8.1M

Budget: $12M

Distributed by: Sony Pictures

Production compaines: Parkwood Entertainment

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 67%
Fresh: 81 Rotten: 40

IMDB: 6.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: Petra Hoebel, , Andrew Lack,

Starring: as Leonard Chess, as Muddy Waters, as Etta James, as Geneva Wade, as Little Walter, as Willie Dixon, as Revetta Chess, as Howlin' Wolf, as Chuck Berry

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Zoolander 2 Movie Review

Zoolander 2 Movie Review

With virtually the same blend of wit and idiocy as the 2001 original, this fashion-scene...

A Bigger Splash Movie Review

A Bigger Splash Movie Review

Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love) reteams with Tilda Swinton for this fresh, tricky...

Deadpool Movie Review

Deadpool Movie Review

Both the filmmakers and the characters on-screen are so pleased with themselves that this might...

Trumbo Movie Review

Trumbo Movie Review

An entertaining film about sobering true events, this is the story of notorious screenwriter Dalton...

Goosebumps Movie Review

Goosebumps Movie Review

Mixing the action, comedy and horror from novelist R.L. Stein's books into a family-friendly package,...

Dad's Army Movie Review

Dad's Army Movie Review

The beloved 1970s British sit-com gets the big screen treatment, although there's been very little...

Spotlight Movie Review

Spotlight Movie Review

This film demonstrates that you don't need guns to make an exciting thriller. Based on...

Advertisement
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi Movie Review

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi Movie Review

Not the subtlest director working in Hollywood, Michael Bay brings his surging machismo to this...

Dirty Grandpa Movie Review

Dirty Grandpa Movie Review

There's nothing clever about this deliberately rude and vulgar comedy, but certain audiences will find...

The Big Short Movie Review

The Big Short Movie Review

Smart and snappy, this comedy is one of the scariest films of the year, using...

The 5th Wave Movie Review

The 5th Wave Movie Review

Also based on the first in a trilogy of post-apocalyptic teen novels, this thriller feels...

Ride Along 2 Movie Review

Ride Along 2 Movie Review

Ice Cube and Kevin Hart reteam for a sequel no one really asked for, following...

Room Movie Review

Room Movie Review

One of the most extraordinary films of the year, this drama cleverly weaves in events...

Creed Movie Review

Creed Movie Review

While this film is basically Rocky VII, it's also much more than that, and perhaps...

A Perfect Day Movie Review

A Perfect Day Movie Review

An irreverent comedy in the style of the original M.A.S.H., this wartime romp takes an...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.