Roxanne Roxanne – Review

Genre Drama
Directed by Michael Larnell
Starring Chanté Adams, Mahershala Ali, Nia Long, Elvis Nolasco, Kevin Phillips, Shenell Edmond
Released on January 22, 2017(Sundance), March 23, 2018 (US)
Duration 100 minutes
Flixxpanda Rating 5/10
Channel Netflix

Roxanne Roxanne attempts to tell the tale of rapper Roxanne Shante, played by the stunning and versatile Chante Adams. We all know she was an icon. She paved the way for women in hip-hop and was incredibly talented herself. However, the film fails to deliver an authentic realization of her life on screen.

Originally from Queens, Shante struggles to handle school, family and money-making at the same time. Her rapping abilities are kept on the down low and the beginning the film essentially focuses on her family. Her mother Peggy (Nia Long), who is saving up to move to New Jersey is a prominent strong figure, except when her boyfriend steals the money and runs away. It’s seemingly from this point onward in the movie that the message of men treating women like crap starts being heard, loud and clear.

This chorus is stuck to throughout the film, whether it’s men who don’t treat Shante as an equal or steal her money or are just a bane in general. But it feels like this feminist angle was just half-arsed and not actualized to the best of its potential.

Further, there are barely any real performing scenes in the film. I understand that they were perhaps operating on a tight budget but those were the sequences I enjoyed the most. Why you would not include rapping scenes in a movie about a female rapper’s freedom struggle and rise to fame, is beyond my comprehension.

I think at the crux of it all the main issue here is Shante is introduced as a legend and after that nothing is really done about it. The film should have depicted her rise to shimmering fame with much more elegance, instead it’s stilted, more akin to Jennifer Lawrence’s “Joy” than anything else. Both feel like shabby portrayals of fantastic women.

I do like how Roxanne Roxanne shows Shante becoming more and more independent but still showcasing vulnerabilities. This makes her trust men repeatedly even though she’s been burned before.

Brilliant cinematography and fantastic acting by Adams makes for some beautiful up close and personal shots and the best performance possible with the script they were given. It’s a great film, just with an underutilized story line. It could have been much better. It doesn’t elicit the kind of intense emotion it clearly could have.

The film is incomplete and feels like we’re hearing a story after it’s been passed through too many filters. It became just a shadow of reality without a flicker of authenticity by the time it hit the screen.

Video Credit – Netflix | YouTube

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