Street-articulate Filly Brown (Gina Rodriguez) finds herself in a world of possibilities; if she pursues her career in commercial rapping, she can earn enough money to save her mother from jail. If she chooses instead to follow her heart, a lifetime of hardship loom. And there are a number of obstacles in her way – financial, critical and family.
So, how do you make what is essentially a teen movie keep your target audience’s phone-sapped attention span going for a full-length feature, amid all the hip language, glitz and general sass? Add plenty of violence, ulterior motives and an evil record label for good measure.
This fun, hip – if unoriginal – little film is the product of effective craftsmanship. Under the cheesy songs and lines, the story races along, its characters arcing toward their personal redemptions through their own difficulties, and swelling to a point where the stakes are so dramatic it leaves you disarmed. It’s this strength of screenwriting that aids the film more than any other aspect – a tight piece of work, functioning in all the right places, no character ever loses their focus, which is a real problem in modern scriptwriting.
For such an inconsequential picture, Filly Brown is filled with actors who actually fill their parts – Gina Rodriguez is a prime example, a perfect leading lady bristling with a determination rarely seen from an actress at her level. She successully chronicles Filly’s respective ascent and descent in success and integrity, but such scenes are undercut by the cheesiness of the rapping. From a purely musical point of view, these are tunes you’d find on the shelves of your local pound shop.
Though at many times it feels like a TV series more than a real cinematic work, the film is a perfectly functional drama that takes a decent stab at portraying the rise and decline of the label-assisted artist, and by the end there’s a sincere air of redemption. Filly Brownis even but uneventful, and gripping enough to make you care.
At its core, Filly Brown is a film about family. That’s what makes movies in work in general: whether it’s action, romance, science fiction, there is always an underlying theme which it’s really concerned with over the superfluous mechanics of story and setting. This is where Filly succeeds, and what will keep those short attention spans hooked.