Sundance Review: 'The Carter'
Lil Wayne documentary looks at the artist, but doesn't capture the man
Lil Wayne was, alas, not in the hour for the 11:59 p.m. Saturday (Jan. 17) night premiere screening of "The Carter." It wasn't anything personal, we were assured. Weezy just happens to be on tour.
This no doubt came as a fairly huge disappointment to the young lady standing behind me in line drinking peach schnapps, waxing rhapsodic about the opportunity to use her condo's hot tub and asking everybody in proximity if they thought Lil Wayne would make an appearance.
Sundance organizers have to be pleased, though, with the Park City at Midnight screening, which filled the Eccles Theatre with a crowd that was younger, drunker and more ethnically diverse than any I saw in my first day at the Fest.
And how was "The Carter"? My answer after the bump...
First caveat: I arrived in Park City at 2:00 a.m. on Saturday morning and got two hours of sleep before kicking off a rigorous five-movie day at 8 a.m. So I may have been nodding off.
Second caveat: Before "The Carter," I'd seen Doug Pray's "Art and Copy," which I'll try to review tomorrow. I'm a huge fan of a couple Pray docs, particular "Scratch" and "Art and Copy" was my Day One highlight, so "The Carter" probably paled in comparison.
Third caveat: I don't get Lil Wayne as a cultural phenomenon, though I guess I can see how some people might be amused at his eccentricities. How that translates into popularity is a mystery.
Directed by Adam Bhala Lough, "The Carter" is a decent enough introduction into the wiry bundle of weirdness that is Lil Wayne. From his mumbling speaking style that forces Lough to frequently use subtitles to his stream-of-consciousness flow to his shiny grill to his ever-increasing number of tattoos to his ubiquitous joints, to his even more ubiquitous styrofoam beverage containers (many or most filled with cough syrup), Lil Wayne is just an odd guy. Based on Lough's footage, Lil Wayne appears to alternate between being near-catatonic nearly all the time to shift gears into wildly energetic concerts.
Of course, even in a coma state, Lil Wayne is still among the genre's most prolific artists, often recording (and discarding) multiple songs per day on a system that accompanies him on the road. This is where Lough's documentary is strongest, as we watch Lil Wayne just freestyle, tweaking his words as he goes along. We learn that all of his songs are in his head, because he doesn't believe in writing things down.
Lough's access was superior, so we're on his tour bus and in his hotel rooms in locations ranging from New York to Atlanta to Amsterdam. We're told he enjoys Amsterdam because of the legal pot, but there's no indication that Lil Wayne is all that restricted when he's Stateside. Along the way, we also see interviews Lil Wayne conducts with other journalists and it doesn't take long to realize that much of his persona is just a character, an act.
Which parts aren't? The film's title, of course, refers to Lil Wayne's actual name, which is Dwayne Michael Carter Jr. But Lough opts for an observational mode rather than making an effort to learn anything real about his subject. Even the moments that feel like they might be honest, scenes like Lil Wayne recounting his alleged first sexual experience at the age of 11, could also double as performance for the ribald rapper.
When Lil Weezy is talking to the camera, though, he's frustratingly in-character the entire time, revealing nothing other than that he cares about his musical legacy and he wants to be a good father. Meanwhile darker elements like Lil Wayne's myriad drug addictions are treated almost as jokes. One of Lil Wayne's facial tats reads "misunderstood," but docs like this aren't helping matters.
After the screening, Lough told the crowd that the reason "The Carter" is playing as a midnight movie is, in his opinion, because it's more than just a simple documentary. I don't think he's right about that. I think it's playing out of the drama competition because it's an extended commercial for Lil Wayne, albeit one with a lively soundtrack and some insights into his creative process.
The crowd didn't mind those failings.
News From Our Partners
- How Far Will 'Star Trek Into Darkness' Boldly Go At Box Office? 'Star Trek Into Darkness': The Secret Behind The Mystery Villain 'Pacific Rim' Trailer Surfaces: Watch Now!
- Pop Bytes: Michael Jackson's Nephew Negates Wade Robson's Molestation Claims + More Watch Macklemore, Kendrick Lamar, Ellie Goulding + More on Hangout Festival Livestream Dumb Celebrity Quotes – Who Said This?
- Hear This: Destroy This Place shows how press releases can get it right Watch This: With Beavis And Butt-head Do America, Mike Judge skewered the idiocy of cinematic adventures Cannes Film Festival: Cannes 2013, Day Two: Iranian director Asghar Farhadi chases A Separation with another stunning drama
- The Telefile - The Most Heinous Person on Reality TV This Week The Telefile - Modern Family: The Best Lines of the Night The Telefile - Fall TV 2013: What's On When
- What to Watch This Weekend: The Season Finales of Nikita, Doctor Who, The Simpsons, and Family Guy The Office Series Finale Review: That'll Do, Show. That'll Do. Syfy Renews Warehouse 13 for a Fifth and Final Season
- Weekly Ketchup: Will Smith to Star in Wild Bunch Remake? Critics Consensus: Star Trek Into Darkness is Certified Fresh Red Carpet Roundup: Star Trek Into Darkness Edition
- Beyonce Pregnant Again? Sources Confirm 'Epic' Star Is Carrying Baby No. 2 'Hangover 3' Red Band Trailer: Take a Walk Down a NSFW Memory Lane (VIDEO) Why 'Man of Steel' Didn't Use 'Superman' in the Title
- Behind The Shocking 'Grey's Anatomy' Finale WATCH: Tobias Fünke's New Sizzle Reel Is Epic JLo Steals Spotlight On 'American Idol'
Dan and Alan talk upfronts, reality and 'The Office' finaleFriday, May 17, 2013
Kree or Candice? Join as as we wade through over two hours of filler.Thursday, May 16, 2013
This season's shutout winner discusses his path to victoryThursday, May 16, 2013
'Idol' begins to wind down a tough season with an hour of singingWednesday, May 15, 2013