Yesterday Eminem released the music video for his song “River” featuring Ed Sheeran. At nearly 7 minutes, the video — like the album, Revival, that it’s from — is way too long. There’s a lot to cringe at, primarily concerning the part where a very moody Ed Sheeran sings in a torrential downpour. There is, however, a surprising high point to the video: it’s the return of Marshall Mathers the Actor.
The video features acted interludes that mix cell phone videos capturing intimate moments shared between Eminem and his girlfriend with documentary-type footage of interviews with Eminem, his girlfriend, her ex-husband, and, for some reason, Sheeran (presumably so he wouldn’t feel left out). The climax of the video comes when she reveals she is pregnant and the two argue over whether or not to have an abortion.
Despite the fact that he is playing himself, he is remarkably convincing in the acted scenes, in which the perennial themes of celebrity and relationships inevitably creep up. It’s easy to clock performances by non-actors, but for someone whose last acting credit was 16 years ago Eminem does a fair job of performing casual intimacy, both loving and antagonistic, without coming off as amateurish. The total time Eminem is acting isn’t more than a minute or two, but those moments still emerge as the best parts of the otherwise unremarkable video.
It instantly calls to mind 8 Mile in which Eminem’s performance was surprisingly good. He hasn’t taken on any acting roles since then, though his penchant for theatrics and switching identities is a mainstay of his music. If reactions to Revival have proven anything, it’s that the people don’t want another Eminem album. So why not step back on the big screen? Sure, he literally has only ever played himself. But considering how many movies are about angry white guys with something to prove, there’s still a lot of potential work out there for the veteran rapper.