A lot of musicians try to hold out for a theatrical release. For while The Temptations and surely the New Edition movie set precedents on the silver screen, there is nothing like your life story on the big one. However, while many have to remind the masses why their story matters that isn’t the case of Tupac Shakur. At the age of 25 his legend was already solidified and in All Eyez on Me, in some ways, the legend continues.
How does one of the most prolific rap artist come to be? It all starts with the women in his life. From his mother Afeni (Danai Gurira), to what could have been the love of his life Jada (Kat Graham), these are two people who shaped Tupac Shakur (Demetrius Shipp Jr.) into the man he was. His mother educated him, instilled confidence and made him outspoken. Then with Jada, she pushed him, challenged him, inspired him, and loved him. Perhaps in a way that goes beyond lovers, friends, and transcended into soul mates.
But Tupac’s story isn’t a love story. If anything, it is about a man with great ambitions and talent who fell due to associating with the wrong people. Someone who, if perhaps he listened to the various warnings, which may or may not be factual, he could be alive today. But the sum of a man isn’t just his triumphs, accolades, and the highlights of his life. To truly get to know someone you got to see them at their worse, while their face is pressed to the ground, and you gotta see how they survive situations they willingly walked into and had to fight their way out.
The Women in Pac’s Life Aren’t Downplayed
Often in biopics, women, be it mothers or love interest, get downplayed. They are background characters, similar to the women we see half naked and lounging in the movie. However, All Eyez On Me doesn’t repeat the pattern. Gurira as Afenia Shakur nearly dominates Shipp Jr. in the movie. Yet, through that, you see Afeni’s influence on Tupac. How this strong, educated, verbal Black woman gave birth and raised a man who is clearly a product of her.
Yet, as strong, educated, and communicative as she was, there are flaws. Flaws of which aren’t fully fleshed out, but it doesn’t take away from the character. For even when high Gurira doesn’t lose this intensity which demands that you, like Tupac, look her in the eyes. And through those flaws, we are reminded that this woman isn’t being painted to be ideal or perfect. She, like her son, fell prey to vices and other things which led her to stray from her path. But, with time and allowing herself to be helped, she got back on the straight and narrow.
With that said, I’d be remiss to not mention Graham as Jada. Mostly because she forces you to see a different side of Pac. A side that likes women who can challenge him and love him. Since, with all the half naked women we see, it makes it easy to write off Pac as a womanizer. Yet between Jada and Kadida Jones (Annie Ilonzeh), you see something more.
To go a bit further, but just focusing on Jada, you can see a truly deep relationship [note]In the link, you can hear Jada talk about Pac and I think Graham exhibited that well. [/note] [note]In this link you can read what did and did not happen per Jada Pinkett-Smith.[/note]. Not like an “Oh she is like a sister or cousin” type of relationship. It truly seemed like the kind which, if they were able to make more time for each other, could have saved Pac. Which Graham, to my surprise, played up well.
For Jada’s relationship with Tupac is not her claim to fame. When you hear the name “Jada Pinkett-Smith” Tupac has become almost a footnote. So Graham is forced to fill in the blanks. She has to help you understand why this woman, of the many Pac knew, was special. And she truly nails. She nails it to the point that it forces you to take notice of Graham. It makes you take her more seriously than perhaps has been warranted in the past. For while she doesn’t possess a huge role in the film, her presence is felt. She makes Jada into a woman you can tell had the influence who could have changed history.
A Concise Rise & Fall
There are very few movies which can be over 90 minutes and not leave me antsy and checking my phone to see when it is over. This can be considered one of the few. For while there are flashbacks used, moments made so that they can show off certain characters [note]Jarrett Ellis as Snoop Dogg, for example, was a true highlight. At least for the audience I was with.[/note] and songs, the film doesn’t feel like it had a load of extra fat.
It makes sure to pinpoint certain moments and conversations so you understand what crafted Tupac. Then, it follows up. Without being direct, we see how Afeni’s warnings weren’t fully understood. We get to see how Pac associating with this person, not letting this thing go, or not communicating to the best of his ability, led to his ultimate end. Which, strangely, despite a longer than average run time, never bores you. For while many surely know what happened, since Pac did die before the internet but not so long ago that his history wasn’t recorded, to relive it is something.
On The Fence
At Times It Seems Like Everyone Is Written To Try To Be As Deep As Afeni
Perhaps the one thing I could ding this movie for is it tries to make damn near everyone sound deep. Making it feel like the writers of this movie couldn’t get out of Afeni headspace. Which isn’t to say a lot of these people may not be deep in real life. It is just, being that Pac’s associates all came from different worlds, it was strange that it didn’t seem like when Suge (Dominic L. Santana) spoke or a few others, what they said didn’t fully seem authentic. Like, based off the person who has been presented, surely this didn’t come out of their mouth.
Overall: Positive (Worth Seeing)
There is a growing fear and question of who really deserves biopics? When are these films, whether released on the big or silver screen, more about vanity than message? When are they more so about the musician celebrating themselves, or trying to get an uptick in music sales, vs. telling a noteworthy story?
Which leads to one of the main reason why All Eyez on Me is being marked Positive. This movie doesn’t feel like it has any ego attached to it. Nor does it have that vibe like it is trying to have Pac’s music get a bump in sales. It is about telling its audience about a life which is truly noteworthy and legendary. I’d even argue, if he lived a longer life, one which would be up there with Tina Turner, Johnny Cash, and etc. For this film serves all the main purposes of a biopic.
What All Eyez on Me does is feed fans nostalgia while perhaps filling in some blanks. Then, for those unlucky enough to be unaware of Tupac’s talent, it provides an awakening. It provides a clear example of what rap music used to be and what modern rappers can be – no excuses. For Tupac was not only commercially successful with club and derogatory tracks, but also with his more conscious material too. All the while, he didn’t soften his image or nothing like that. He still kept it rather raw but very often eloquent.
Leaving you feeling heavy knowing he died at 25. For his life barely begun, his message was just starting to spread, and he was gunned down violently. So considering what he did, and his potential, it may be hard to not be left frustrated, if not teary-eyed, thinking about what could have been.
Society Reviews: A Negative Review of the Movie