By Andrea Beach,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Gritty, violent bio of '80s rap star is ultimately hopeful.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Stand up for yourself, don't ever back down from demanding what you deserve or what you've earned. Family bonds and sisterly bonds of friendship can help you through tough times. Being disappointed by a man is inevitable. Going to school mentioned as the way to a better life, but it didn't turn out to be true for Shanté. The negative effects of alcohol abuse on loved ones is shown; ultimately, the character stops drinking and her relationships and life all get much better. The music business is a minefield of people who'll take advantage of you.
Positive Role Models
Shanté models endurance, perseverance, somehow managing to keep trying to make life better for herself and her family despite tough odds. She tries to be strong, help her younger sisters without parental support. She achieves success, some fame at a very young age, makes some bad choices, and lands in many pitfalls someone more mature or with better guidance might avoid. Her mother turns to alcohol after a bitter disappointment and mostly treats Shanté with hostility, but in the end changes for the better. Except for a few minor characters like Shante's teacher, men are abusive, neglectful, even criminal. Shanté's female friends and rival female rapper model supportive friendship and loyalty.
Violence & Scariness
A sexual assault shows a man grabbing and pulling at a woman's clothes, throwing her on a couch, and struggling on top of her. Rape implied but it's not clear exactly how far the assault actually goes; no body parts are visible but there's some grunting and thrusting. Shanté mentions she's beaten every day. She's shown being dragged by the hair, choked, and offcamera a punch is implied; her pain and suffering are shown. Someone offers to kill her abuser for her.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Sex and violence implied during a montage to show time passing. It depicts Shanté having an orgasm, then making the same face and noises, including screaming, while giving birth, which then cuts to the same screams while she's being dragged across the floor by her hair. Otherwise there are a few kisses with some implied sex, with a man and woman in bed together. No sensitive body parts shown.
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"Goddamn," "s--t," "ass," "f--k" and variations, the "N" word, and lots of verbal hostility.
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Products & Purchases
Sergio Valente products mentioned to establish the time period.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Shanté's mother abuses alcohol after a friend encourages her by telling her it'll take her mind off her emotional pain "for now." Several people are shown snorting cocaine. A man smokes a joint. A couple of characters smoke. Shanté mentions she doesn't drink. Lyrics mention being high on crack.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Roxanne, Roxanne is a gritty biopic of '80s East Coast rap sensation Roxanne Shanté. A few instances of violence include a sexual assault that implies rape without clearly showing what exactly happened and a man physically abusing a woman. A punch to the face is implied, and he's shown dragging her by the hair. There's lots of verbal hostility. Profanity isn't frequent but includes "f--k" and variations, the "N" word, and "s--t." Snorting cocaine is shown several times. There are a few kisses and adults in or on beds, but no sensitive body parts are shown. One montage implies a connection between sex, childbirth, and physical abuse. A few characters smoke, and a man smokes a joint once. One character abuses alcohol but eventually changes for the better; Shanté mentions that she doesn't drink, and she's a good role model for persevering, for being a loyal friend and sister, standing up for herself, and doing whatever she can or has to in order to help provide for her family. Kids interested in the history of rap and hip-hop or who are fans of the East Coast battle style of rapping are likely to be interested, but it's best for teens and up who can handle the intense situations and harsh realities of Shanté's life in the projects.
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What's the Story?
Based on real events, ROXANNE, ROXANNE tells the story of '80s rap phenom "Roxanne Shanté," who at the age of 14 was poised on the edge of real stardom. Unfortunately, she's also carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. Her emotionally distant mother and absent father mean the burden of caring and providing for her family of five falls squarely on Shanté's shoulders. She's already running out of other MCs in Queens who are willing to battle her on stage, so a career in rap music could be her ticket out of the projects. But it all starts to fall apart when she finds herself in an abusive relationship. Does Shanté have what it takes to put her life, and her career, back together?
Is It Any Good?
This gritty biopic takes an unblinking, intense look at the early life of one of the most intriguing rappers of the early 1980s. But rap history fans should be aware that it's definitely more Shanté's story than it is a comprehensive history of the rap scene at that time. There's some great acting from the main characters, but sometimes the dialogue is stilted and unnatural-sounding. Also, it's sometimes hard to keep track of the characters and figure out who's who.
Teens who are old enough to handle the emotional intensity and mature themes will easily root for Shanté, even when she makes mistakes or bad choices, thanks to her engaging personality and determination to make her life better. It's not an easy story to hear, but hers is an important voice that should be heard, and ultimately Roxanne, Roxanne is hopeful about Shanté's future.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the violence in Roxanne, Roxanne. How does knowing that the story is based on real events affect you when you see violence on-screen? Does its basis in reality make it OK to show in movies?
How does the movie show drug and alcohol use? Is it realistic? How do the characters act when they drink or do drugs?
What about the profanity? How much is OK in movies? Does it matter if it's realistic?
- In theaters: January 22, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: March 23, 2018
- Cast: Chanté Adams, Mahershala Ali, Nia Long
- Director: Michael Larnell
- Inclusion Information: Black actors
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, History, Music and Sing-Along
- Character Strengths: Perseverance
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: February 18, 2023
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