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Movie Review: The Carter

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A tell-all documentary about someone who has been famous since his tender teenage years doesn’t hold much intrigue. With TMZ on the loose and gossip bloggers at the ready, how much can there be about a life lived publicly that the adoring masses don’t already know? It is perhaps for this reason that director Adam Bhala Lough offers a tantalizing riddle at the outset of his documentary, The Carter.

The film’s subject, rapper Lil Wayne, mysteriously withdrew his support for the documentary after allowing full access to months of his life. From the moment that this tidbit appears onscreen, the viewer can't help but analyze the scenes that follow, wondering just what Wayne was hoping to keep to himself.

There is much crammed into the movie’s 77 minutes that the average person might not want the world at large to know about. But fans of the man known to many as “the best rapper alive” are already well aware of his love for women, weed, and purple drank (a mix of cough syrup and soda, both of which Wayne totes around in a Louis Vuitton briefcase). Anyone familiar with the hip-hop lifestyle knows an over-inflated ego and tales of public sexual escapades are par for the course. So what could have the star up in arms? With his change of heart, Wayne has inadvertently added another layer of interest to an already interesting piece.

The more cynical viewer might look at the amount of press constantly orbiting Wayne’s life and wonder if perhaps his displeasure about the documentary is a well-timed publicity grab. After all, the man spends much of the film talking to the press, answering the same old questions patiently for the first hour or so, until one foreign journalist draws his rage for asking about jazz and poetry. The director wisely uses the interview footage to touch briefly on the most famous parts of Wayne’s back story. Yes, he shot himself as a youngster. Yes, he had a daughter at fifteen. Reginae, Wayne’s little girl, shows up briefly, sporting a “My Dad Rules” t-shirt and shouts out the color yellow and the Cheetah Girls in the cutest rap ever captured on film. Girl rappers like Little Mama should shiver in fear, because as Wayne later says, Reginae has her eye on the music industry someday.

The other figures in Wayne’s life also pop up, each one helping the viewer to understand another piece of Wayne’s unique world. Brian “Baby” Williams, Wayne’s surrogate father, explains how he wanted to create a better life for them through music, and then makes it evident that the something better has come along when he gives Wayne a Rolls Royce for selling a million records in a week. Manager and longtime friend Cortez Bryant laughs about the duo’s childhood exploits, some of which his Mom still doesn’t know about, then becomes somber when discussing how he can’t ride on the tour bus with his friend anymore, edged out by the ever present syrup.

As the rapper rambles from city to city, toting his suitcase of recording equipment, the camera follows, capturing a man in love with his music, his mind, and his intoxicants. The film offers more questions than it can hope to answer, and may leave those unfamiliar with the artist wondering why everyone from the Jonas Brothers to suburban church kids love him so much. Hip hop fans still debate passionately over whether his music is worth a listen, and no doubt will remain divided on whether The Carter is worth a look.

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