Funny how our March Madness Month has been more or less focused on films by and about fucking fierce women, isn’t it? Guess we weren’t quite ready to hang Feminist February back in the wardrobe, which is f-i-n-e fine with me.
To this week’s film which is no different, a neat little Netflix Original charting the rise of teen rapper Roxanne Shante.
Roxanne Roxanne (2017)
In the early 1980s, the most feared battle MC in Queens, New York, was a fierce teenage girl with the weight of the world on her shoulders.
Shante (Chanté Adams) and her family live in an overcrowded apartment in Queens. Things seems to be looking up as the women, Shante’s mother Ms. Peggy (Nia Long) and her daughters get set to move out and into a bigger home.
Ms. Peggy and her man have been planning a new life for the family while Peggy has been saving every last penny, finally stacking up 20 gees after years and years of hard work. Shit takes a turn when her boyfriends ups and leaves one night with the money in tow. Who fucking knew?
Throughout this movie it seems the girls’ are destined to learn than men are rubbish and never worth the effort. They hang around waiting for a father than never shows and suffer the wrath of their hard-working single mother who loves her girls dearly but has no time to suffer fools, because men. It’s actually the relationship between Shante and her mother that I liked the most about this film – Ms. Peggy is a force to be reckoned with but she ain’t taking no prisoners.
Following a rough patch at home, Shante moves out and in with a male friend (couldn’t work out if this was a friend or cousin actually). She shoplifts to order for a small gang and this is how she makes the benjamins to live. This set up can’t last forever and Shante learns the hard way that adulting is not easy and has no choice but to return home.
Shante, the hero of this story, has shown a unique talent for rap battling from an early age and earned herself something of a local infamy. Because of this she finds herself regularly challenged to battle by snot nosed neighbourhood boys.
One day – in between laundry shifts – Shante throws down a couple of verses on a neighbour’s track and before she knows it, has blown up on the radio. Popularity though comes at a price and she finds herself growing apart from her school friends and family. She also meets Cross (Mahershala Ali), a charismatic older man keen to hitch his wagon to her rising star.
I found the older man/16-year-old thing really icky to watch even if it a true representation of what happened to the real Roxanne Shante. When Ms. Peggy confronts him for sleeping with her daughter I cheered. Although Mahershala Ali is one of the most exciting actors around at the moment, he plays sleazy Cross just a little too well. I hated him and I hated the violence he rains down upon the person he supposedly loves.
When Shante and Cross take their relationship to the next level, all sorts of Hell breaks loose. Will Shante survive to become the Queen of Rap, or what? You know what to do.
God this was boring. I mean, I love a rags to riches tale and I loved Shante but why did it feel so long when it was only 90 mins? It didn’t show me anything new, didn’t really inspire me to feel anything at all – and Shante has a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it birthing scene that I thought I’d imagined. As a bridge across time I got its purpose but it didn’t work. There’s not that much character development either.
Nia Long and Adams are the stand outs in this, they’re brilliant with what they have to work with – and I would have been delighted with more one on one between them. All in all this movie just isn’t all that, sadly.
What does my Queen think of this one? Would she challenge it to a rap battle or take it on tour? Find out here.