March Madness continues with a throwback to the ’80s–chunky earrings, high-waisted jeans, and mink coats included.
Roxanne Shante, a teen in 1980s Queens, paves the way for women in hip-hop as an overnight rap sensation.
Initially facing off in rap battles to earn money for her family, Shante is unbeatable by the age of 9. As she grows into her teens, she continues to compete to support her young sisters and struggling single mom, Peggy. At least Shante has her bff, Ranita, who is essentially her DJ and hype (wo)man.
Things go from bad to worse when Peggy’s boyfriend runs off with the family’s savings. Peggy, who has always been hard on Shante, leans on alcohol and bitterness to carry her through. Shante rarely shows up for school as her focus is on keeping the family afloat. According to her mom, no school = no home, and Shante must find another place to live before too long.
It’s not long before Shante returns, attempting to make money and keep up with chores. As she is washing laundry, a neighbor asks her to do a quick recording in his studio. They do a single take, and history is made–seemingly overnight, Shante is a rap star.
As Shante’s success takes off, she enjoys the ride but makes almost no money from her endeavors. She happily takes gifts from fans, but has a falling out with her DJ over it. During this time, Shante’s long-term relationship with the waaaaaaaaaay older Cross begins to unravel as he becomes increasingly abusive.
Will Shante rise above these challenges and find success, peace, or all of the above?
3/5 Pink Panther Heads
Eh, this was a bit of non-story in terms of plot. Shante’s story is worth telling, but the way it’s told here could be more compelling. Chanté Adams, Nia Long, and Mahershala Ali all stand out in their roles, though I really hated what a sleaze Cross was. It’s hard to watch Cross treat Shante so badly for so much of this film. We don’t ever really get inside of Shante’s head–perhaps as a survival technique, she remains quite aloof.
That being said, I do love the relationship between Shante and her bff, as well as a very brief scene between Shante and her “rival” Sparky D. I think I could’ve gotten behind this more with a focus on those strong female bonds, but instead we see Shante’s dysfunctional relationships dominate the story.
As a side note, this is also somewhat light on actual rap scenes for a film about a rapper.