Sundance Review: ‘The Carter’

06.15.09 8 years ago

QD3 Entertainment

I think my first question is “How the hell do you properly punctuate Lil Wayne’s name?”  I’ve seen it written now as Lil Wayne, Li’l Wayne (which seems right to me) and oddly Lil’ Wayne, which makes no sense at all. 

Not that it makes any real difference, I suppose.  No matter how you punctuate his name, Li’l Wayne is a huge force in the recording industry right now, which would seem to make him a ripe subject for a documentary.  What’s crazy, though is just how much the search for the “real” Li’l Wayne reveals that there may be no such thing.

I can understand why his management wanted to block the release of the film once they saw it.  His rampant abuse of marijuana and cough syrup is nonstop, and the film presents a portrait of a man who exists only as a media figure, whose only anchor is the almost non-stop stream of music he produces, and who seems almost unable to properly maintain even one normal human relationship.  It’s not a flattering portrayal by any means, which raises the question:  why would Li’l Wayne give any filmmaker this much close-up access to him, and why would anyone in his camp allow him to live like this with the cameras running?

One scene in particular was hard to sit through, particularly in a room full of other writers who have to interview celebrities on a regular basis.  During a press stop in New Orleans, Li’l Wayne sits for a series of short interviews and just plain screws with each and every reporter who sits across from him.  Just thinking about the scene gives me the sweat.  Yeeeeesh.

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Adam Bhala Lough, director of the film, appears to have had carte blanche in what to shoot, and he took full advantage of it.  The strangest thing about the lifestyle on display is the brutal monotony of it all.  I work a lot… like, the majority of my waking hours… but even so, I make time for my family, and I make time for my friends, and I make time to recharge.  You have to.  That’s what makes all the work worthwhile.  Li’l Wayne seems proud of the fact that he only really exists with a mic in his hand.  The one thing the film fails to do is pin down exactly what it is that Li’l Wayne seems so determined to escape in his past, or what it is about his personal life that damaged him so powerfully.

And if you’re concerned that you won’t have any interest in the film because you’re not a fan of his music, don’t be.  This is more about the hall of mirrors we know as modern media celebrity and how easy it is to get lost in it, rather than about Li’l Wayne’s music in particular.  He just turns out to be a perfect representation of just how hollow and transitive and all-consuming that fame can be.

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