Biggie's childhood is washed with glowy, golden hues, while his time dealing on the street is leached of hues and clad in corroded grays, blacks, whites, and browns, until the MC battles another rapper on the sidewalk and color begins to enter the picture.
And unlike 2008's Cadillac Records, which bought into the overt displays of bling that talent can bring, Tillman and company give adequate shrift to the musicmaking that built Biggie's renown: the mic is shot as if it's a grail, swathed in a silvery aura. The symbols of power such as the Big Daddy Kanelike throne Biggie mounts speak louder than his kicks, cribs, or cars. And the scenes in which Woolard actually raps particularly in a basement scene after he emerges from prison and a bout of lyric writing and soul searching are believable and compelling: flecks of his spit shimmer in the harsh light. Woolard, who grew up blocks from Biggie's original hood and had a promising career until a shooting in front of NYC's Hot 97, is the perfect choice to portray the man.
Notorious' melodramatic, overly amped conclusion may ring a bit artificial with its drawn-out return to the opening scenes: as "Hypnotize"'s "Rise" sample ripples through the dancers, Notorious B.I.G. says, in flashback, that he's finally found peace, he's become a man, and, well, he's Ready to Die (Bad Boy, 1994), to crib the title of his classic debut. But I dare anyone to not get choked up by Notorious' coda, as Voletta Wallace, portrayed with grand-dame grit by Angela Bassett, looks out on the crowd surrounding her son's NYC funeral procession, playing his music and flinging their arms, and realizes that, though she never quite trusted the easy money and fast friends surrounding her son, Biggie will always be remembered for his way with words.
NOTORIOUS opens Fri/16 in the Bay Area
BRIGHTBLACK MORNING LIGHT
It's not a hologram: the roving musicmakers return to the region they once called home. Wed/14, 8 p.m., $15. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com
LOS YEUX NOIR
They're dark-eyed and infatuated with gypsy, Yiddish, and Manouche jazz. Wed/14, 8 and 10 p.m., $20<\d>$25. Yoshi's SF, 1330 Fillmore, SF. sf.yoshis.com
Cutie-pie pop oozes from the Aussie charmer who once studied acting with Cate Blanchett. Thurs/15, 8 p.m., $13<\d>$15. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com
We're lost in an all-girl punk rock wilderness. Sat/17, 9:30 p.m., $6. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com
FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE
The popsters go acoustic with tunes from an album-in-progress. Sun/18Mon/19, 8 p.m., $25. Café Du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. www.cafedunord.com.
The acclaimed live performer taps Obama samples for his new single, "No War." Tues/20, 9 p.m., $28. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com