Sundance 2012: Filly Brown review


From directors Yousser Delara and Michael D. Olmos comes Filly Brown (2012), a fictional tale of a promising Latino rapper trying to make it big in LA despite numerous domestic and professional obstacles. Starring Gina Rodriguez, Chrissie Fit and Lou ‘Diamond’ Phillips, this hip hop-infused drama sadly struggles to find its voice amongst its myriad of ill-advised subplots. Majo ‘Filly Brown’ Tonorio (Rodrigues) is a sharp-tongued street poet who reluctantly finds herself the matriarchal figure of her close-knit family after her mother’s incarceration for drug possession, with only the slim possibility of a re-trial.

However, with money scarce within the family, Majo isn’t sure how to raise the funds to finance these legal proceedings. She gets her first big shot whilst appearing on an internet radio station where her lyrical dexterity attracts the attention of a local promoter who offers her the opportunity to make the money she needs to help out her mother. However, her politically-loaded prose is an issue, with this small time hustler insistent that she sexes up her act if she’s to “make it big”.

What should have been a film about an empowered female figure fighting her way to success in the misogynistic world of hip hop very quickly becomes undone by a hideously clichéd script that lacks any of the passion or substance offered up in Majo’s incredibly heartfelt raps. Rodrigues performs admirably amongst a cast of ill-equipped actors who fail to penetrate Filly Brown’s bloated story with even an ounce of sincerity. However, only part of the blame can be handed to the cast as what they’ve been given to work with lacks any real depth or character development, with each of these supporting players portrayed as little more than two dimensional stereotypes of their intended roles.

Whilst Majo’s story primarily fails to resonate due to a genuine lack of realism, Filly Brown is also guilty of attempting to introduce numerous misguided and heavy-handed subplots which ultimately dilute the film’s already flimsy premise. Attempting to highlight the continued misrepresentation of Latin Americans within the US and the problematic issue of drug trafficking within the country’s penitential system the film takes on far too much for its shoddily built foundations to carry – culminating in an incoherent, ineffective and deeply misguided sociopolitical call to arms.

One of the poorer efforts to be showcased at this year’s Sundance London, Filly Brown is a film that not only fails to get across it’s twin themes of racial prejudice in America and sexual equality within the music industry but more importantly fails to entertain on even the most basic level.

For more Sundance London 2012 coverage, simply follow this link.

Patrick Gamble