Imagine my surprise when out of nowhere and without any pre-release fanfare this movie showed up this past weekend at my local art-house theatre here in Cincinnati. I figure that this would not be playing long, so I decided to see it (as it turns out, on the very last day of its screening here, as it is already gone after one week).
As "Filly Brown" (2013 release; 101 min.) opens, we see Majo (played by Gina Rodriguez) performing at an in-studio radio session as Filly Brown, a hip-hop singer who is trying to find success. In the very next scene we see Majo visiting someone in jail, and we learn very quickly that it is her mom Maria (played by Jenni Rivera), who is serving time on a drug charge. Maria is quite the manipulative person, and she is trying to get Majo to somehow get several thousand dollars so that Maria might perhaps get a retrial. We get to know the lawyer who will head up the effort to get a retrial, Leandro (played by Edward James Olmos, who looks to be about 85 or 90). We also get to know Majo's dad/Maria's husband Jos (played by Lou Diamond Phillips). Majo/Filly Brown is turning some heads with her music, and pretty soon she is getting courted by a major player in the hip-hop world who is trying add to her street cred and sultry image. To tell you more of the plot would surely ruin your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Several comments: first, this movie plays more like a tough family drama than it does as a Latino/hip-hop version of "A Star Is Born". That does not mean that music isn't a major factor in this movie. In fact, the music plays a key role in particular tjhe first half of the movie. I am not big into hip-hop as such, yet I found myself enjoying the music a lot. Second, Gina Rodriguez really shines in the title role, and is someone to be watched. Even better, she does all of her own singing in the movie. (The movie soundtrack, available here on Amazon, inexplicably only has 2 songs on it from the many songs Gina Rodriguez performs in the movie.) Third, this is sadly Jenni Rivera's last screen role, as she died in an accident late last year (before the movie got its wide release). Fourth, can someone explain to me why it took 15 months for this movie, first shown at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, to get released in theatres? Last but not least, I (a middle-aged while male) am certainly not the target audience for this movie, yet I thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish. If you're in the mood for a great indie movie consisting of a Latino family drama with a twist of hip-hop music added to it, I can readily recommmend this movie.