By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Three Beers) –
Majo Tonorio (Gina Rodriguez) is from a primarily Latino Los Angeles neighborhood. Majo writes hip hop lyrics, and occasionally performs live for an internet radio program. Her rising popularity soon earns the notice of record producers, and puts stress on her family. And when her imprisoned mother reaches out to Majo for financial help, Filly feels obliged to assist. Majo’s support of her mother earns the ire of her father (Lou Diamond Phillips), who has long since given up on hope of his spouse’s reform. Her father is owner of a small construction company, and is aspiring for a major contract to pull him out of debt.
Maybe he could bust some rhymes… old school
Young actress Gina Rodriguez rises well above the material, with a performance that is simply electric. Majo/Filly Brown is an intelligent young woman with a socially concious streak. She also is prone to explosive emotion that often leads her astray. In a rather brilliant character arc, Majo’s love of her mother drives her to compromise her values and integrity in order to get a quick hit record.
If it’s a long way to the top, it’s even further to become this…
Rodriguez’ subtle character changes are finally reflected in her adopting the trend among her vapid producers of speaking in the third person. The film quite earnestly shows how tempting it can be to take the easy path to fame. Co-Directors Youssef Delara and Michael D. Olmos give the film a dynamic feel. The filming style helps to overcome some of the dramatic flaws by keeping the story moving along steadily.
While overall well made, Filly Brown does have a few dramatic problems. First off, many of the later plot twists focus a bit too heavily on a maudlin hip-hop feud, and less on the family dynamics that made the early parts of the film work so well. By trying to jam too many plot elements into the movie, the story cheapens itself. It is worth noting that even in these scenes, the performances are genuine, and convincing, which renders this complaint minor. And anyway, Edward James Olmos is in it…
Everything goes better with a little Olmos
The subplot involving Majo’s mother in prison resolves itself at the end in a fairly predictable fashion. While Lou Diamond Phillips as the father is generally solid, near the end they hint at a criminal past that never seemed likely based on his earlier performance. This feels forced in at the last minute to make the Mother character more sympathetic, but it never feels believable. Majo’s mother does some pretty terrible things to Majo and her family, and with the proper set up, could have made for a powerful redemption scene. There is just no preparation for it.
A melodrama with some good, and even great performances.
Take a Drink: for autotune
Take a Drink: whenever someone speaks in the third person
Do a Shot: each time Filly sells out