I don’t know how to begin to describe Idlewild, which stars Andre’ “3000” Benjamin (Four Brothers) and Antwan “Big Boi” Patton (ATL) of Outkast. Set during Prohibition, the movie spins the tale of Percival (Benjamin) and Rooster (Patton), two childhood friends who have matured into a hustler/musician and a piano player, respectively. Written and directed by novice filmmaker Bryan Barber, Idlewild has its moments of amateurism, but remains a lovely, endearing and truly special movie throughout. This is due in large part to the performances of Andre, Big Boi, and newcomer Paula Patton, who stars as the beguiling Angel Davenport, a singer who casts a love spell on Percival.
The plot centers on Rooster’s troubles running a popular jook joint/speakeasy while juggling his family responsibilities. Meanwhile, Percival yearns to escape his demanding father, a mortician for whom he works when not playing the piano at the club. Problems arise when Rooster becomes indebted to a local thug and bootlegger, played by the ubiquitous Terrence Howard (Crash, Get Rich or Die Tryin’). Here I must give a word about the amazing visuals. Director Bryan Barber is most well-known for music videos, and it shows. He is masterful at creating the musical performances, as well as using song to stir emotion and create mood. This is particularly evident in the love scene shared by Percival and Angel. It is viscerally beautiful: understated yet passionate. Idlewild has an avant-garde flair that will be lost on some people, which is unfortunate. I think the movie’s minor flaws, such as its occasional predictability – are outweighed by the truly unique and creative storytelling approach. Again, the performances are wonderful. I think we expect this from Andre’, but Big Boi is almost a scene stealer, in my opinion. Andre got the meatier scenes, but I appreciated the subtle authenticity of Big Boi’s portrayal of Rooster. They both push the envelope creatively, and are one of the few groups in hip hop that have transcended the game and are truly making art. Okay, enough of my rambling, I think you get the message. Idlewild is not a movie, it’s a film – and there is a difference. It should be appreciated on the big screen. Check it out.