In theaters April 19, DVD & Blu-Ray Release Date:
July 30, 2013
Rodriguez, Lou Diamond Phillips, Edward James Olmos, Jenni
Rivera, Pete "Chingo Bling" Herrera, Baby Bash, Cuete Yeska
There are few movies that
have effectively captured the pitfalls of the urban music
industry. Filly Brown is undeniably one of them. But
what makes this film stand out from 8 Mile or Hustle and Flow
is how it addresses women in Hip Hop, along with a female lead
that delivers an electrifying performance.
Filly Brown follows the
story of Majo Tonorio (Gina Rodriguez), a Latina MC who dreams
of one day rocking packed shows. The Los Angeles rapper
generates a buzz dropping bars on the radio as Filly Brown,
but her desire to get signed becomes overwhelming when the
stakes are raised. Filly's mother (Jenni Rivera) is serving a
ten-year stretch in prison, her only hope for quick release
depends on whether the aspiring rapper can score some cash.
The resulting journey is a tale of desire, manipulation, and
Despite its low budget,
Filly Brown is shot well. But what stands out most about the
movie is the cast, a mix of film veterans and fresh faces.
Gina Rodriguez puts on a fiery performance as Filly Brown,
with a voice and intensity that lend themselves perfectly to
Edward James Olmos adds a
seasoned touch to the film as Leandro, the attorney Filly
solicits for help in freeing her mother. Olmos is reunited on
screen with Stand and Deliver alum Lou Diamond Phillips, who
plays the hardworking father of Filly and her naive younger
sister. Film and TV veterano Emilio Rivera stars as Mani,
Filly's protective uncle and employer. Left Coast rappers Cuete Yeska and Baby Bash add
some flavor to the cast, with Chingo Bling adding some needed
levity to the film as Filly's fast-talking manager.
Despite this being only her
first feature film, Jenni Rivera delivers a moving portrayal
of Maria, Filly's strung-out mother serving a dime for repeat
drug arrests. Rivera ditched her glamorous Diva de la
Banda look for prison blues to serve up a haunting and
memorable performance. Her scenes are convincing, which
is bittersweet considering Filly Brown will remain her only
appearance in theaters.
With respect to the movie's
inside look at the urban music game, Filly Brown scores points
for realism. Hip Hop managers are left twisting in the wind
when labels strike deals. Rappers such as Snow Tha
Product are denied the mainstream attention their talent
deserves, the result of both being Latina and refusing to
compromise artistic integrity. Filly ultimately succumbs
to the pressure of "sexing up" her image and lyrics to secure
a record deal in order to finance what she believes to be her
mother's chance at early release.
Filly Brown isn't flawless,
however. The film serves up more than a few character
types common to past movies, which gives several scenes a
recycled feel to them. There are also too many subplots, which
threatens to muddle the film the closer it gets to the end.
Ultimately, Filly Brown is
a success. Its lineup of talented Latino actors, surprisingly
fresh Hip Hop soundtrack, and tear-worthy conclusion makes for
a memorable film. It's a film you will definitely want
to see in theaters if showing in your city, otherwise be sure
the DVD when it drops.