Saturday, April 7, 2018

[Review] Roxanne Roxanne

Netflix's Roxanne Roxanne is a bouncy, soulful, and earnest biopic that tells the early life story of '80s teenage battle rap sensation Roxanne Shanté.

Meet Shanté (Chanté Adams), a brilliant and confrontational 14-year-old who enjoys kicking slick rhymes and roasting her unsuspecting opponents with the greatest of ease. But in the face of Shanté's flourishing talent, the film details her rough experiences in the Queensbridge projects, money problems, calls from the streets, and her sudden rise to radio fame with the hit song "Roxanne's Revenge".

Despite the funner, celebratory elements at play, there's a constant sense of serious doubt and despair beneath it all. Much like the art form of hip-hop itself, this film is empowering and tumultuous all at once. Chanté Adams is an absolute revelation here, giving a radiant, attitude-driven, and emotionally-stirring performance. Oscar-winner and fan-favorite Mahershala Ali clocks in as a not-so-likable character (that's an understatement) as Shanté's toxic and predatory (and much older) boyfriend -- it's way closer to Ali's villainy role in "Luke Cage" than it is to his mentor role in 2016's Best Picture winner Moonlight.

Roxanne Roxanne's narrative can come off as snap-shotty and fleeting, and there are some abrupt leaps in time that often occur with music biopics of this nature. And because of this, we never quite witness the true, reverberating magnitude of Shanté's impact as a whole in cultural and musical landscapes. But perhaps the best and most encompassing line of all doesn't actually come from Shanté's raps. It's the one toward the end where she says "I just wanted to be a kid, that's all."

( 7.5/10 )

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