Photo Credit: Billboard
When I first saw the trailer for Surviving Compton I didn’t have high expectations for the film, especially since it was premiering on the Lifetime network which doesn’t have the best track record for biopics. I wasn’t really familiar with Michel’le besides her appearing on the reality show Hollywood Divas but I do remember hearing stories that Dr. Dre abused her back in the day when they dated.
Many people speculated she was releasing the movie for financial gain and that she was lying about the abuse endured by Dr. Dre. The fact that she has been so consistent with her story for so many years made me think otherwise.
It took a minute for me to get into the film because of the narrative format and having to adjust to the actor’s high pitch voice(which was very annoying!), but after a while I became intrigued with the story. I saw the movie Straight Outta Compton which I really enjoyed so it was interesting to hear another side of the story from a woman’s point of view. I didn’t realize how much of a role Michel’le played in the group NWA or that she was signed to Ruthless Records which was Dr. Dre’s record label back in the 80s. I can see now why she wanted to tell her side of the story being that she was not included in Straight Outta Compton. I thought it was crazy how she was taken advantage of by some of the guys from the group. The movie revealed that she was initially not getting paid for her vocals on a lot of their tracks.
Eventually Michel’le is approached about creating her own album and that’s when it seems like Dre’s attitude towards her became aggressive. The first scene in the movie where Dr. Dre hits Michel’le is almost unbearable to watch, he climbs on top of her in the bed while he is sloppy drunk and begins to punch her in the face until her nose starts to bleed. In the scene the real life Michel’le walks into the room with her character and explains why she chose to stay with Dre. She explained how she was taught growing up that abuse was a sign of showing love. To cope with the pain of abuse she indulged in drinking alcohol and taking drugs.
Although the film was supposed to highlight Michel’le’s singing career, the physical abuse overshadowed most of the movie. The most heartbreaking scene in the film is when Michel’le is in the studio recording her popular single Something In My Heart; she is singing with a bruised face looking fearfully at Dre who threatened to beat her again if she couldn’t sing the song correctly.
The scene was such a pivotal part of the movie because it sums up the emotions of what a lot of abused women go through. Many women equate love with physical pain which is very unfortunate. Most abused women feel helpless and trapped in relationships because of the fear caused by the abuser. I’ve never been hit by a man but I always wondered why women decide to stay in abusive relationships.
Many people, especially men shunned Michel’le because of her decision to date both Dr. Dre and Suge Knight, but the movie explained why she made that decision. When you’re coming out of an abusive relationship and you find someone else who treats you great, it is easy to see how she could fall for him so quickly. Although Suge eventually did hit her she explains in the movie that it was a one time occurrence. Later in the movie Michel’le is coerced into marrying Suge which she later finds out wasn’t a legal marriage; she also finds out that he was primarily using her to run his business while he was in prison.
After ending the relationship with Suge Michel’le is left drained and damaged from all the years of abuse and pain that she endured. The end of the film shows how she was able to get her life back on track and most importantly how she was able to survive. The majority of women in abusive relationships don’t survive so her story was an important one to tell.
For a Lifetime movie the film was decent and I think the network did a wonderful job with the casting. Rhyon Nicole Brown who formerly starred on the show Lincoln Heights did an amazing job portraying Michel’le, especially with mimicking her voice. Actor Curtis Hamilton also did a great job portraying Dr. Dre(He also wasn’t bad on the eyes!).
Surviving Compton wasn’t an amazing movie but it was definitely a story worth telling as I’m sure it impacted a lot of women who have experienced abuse in relationships.