Filly Brown Has More Heart Than the Average Showbiz Cautionary Tale


In the underdog vein of hip-hop stardom dramas like Hustle & Flow, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, and gold standard 8 Mile, co-directors Youssef Delara and Michael D. Olmos’s variation on the too-familiar subgenre (the rising inner-city superstar here is a Latina tomboy) is more heartfelt, humanistic, and entertaining than such a clichéd showbiz cautionary tale has any right to be. Or maybe those superlatives should be spit about breakout lead Gina Rodriguez, a two-fisted knockout as streetwise L.A. wunderkind Majo “Filly Brown” Tonorio, whose angriest sociopolitical rhymes have been borrowed wholesale from an uneasy inspiration: “My moms is up in Chino on a 10 count,” Majo admits to her new loverboy DJ, just before her image is sexed up by a small-time producer and scooped up by a bigger label’s thuggy operators. It’s all in the service of getting her manipulative junkie madre (the late norteña singer Jenni Rivera) out of the slammer, and helping both her impressionable younger hermana and struggling contractor pops (Lou Diamond Phillips, sharing screen time with his Stand and Deliver foil Edward James Olmos as Majo’s lawyer). Ain’t nothing new in this game, but even if selling out and “looking the part you’re not” are derivative beats, with this cast they still pound.