Hustle & Flow (2005)
Craig Brewer strips his characters and settings down as we follow the pimp slash part-time rapper DJay on his quest to break out of his struggling Memphis scene. Hustle & Flow never gloryfies, but also never smears the people and places we meet, as Brewer discusses social clashes, intersexual dependency, dreams vs. fame and talent vs. luck. The film is both rich and authentic, even though the plotting isn't cliché-free. Its most impressive asset, however, are the performances. Terrence Howard's commanding lead is brilliantly winged by the unique support given by Taryn Manning and Taraji P. Henson. The latter was undeniably robbed of an Oscar-nomination. The film's point-of-no-return might be said to be speculative, but there's also no doubt that it maintains a sense of realism, even though the seemingly binary world view can seem a little too negative and constrained.