VH1’s CrazySexyCool biopic exceeds expectations

22 Oct
TLC: Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, Rozanda "Chilli" Thomas

TLC: Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, Rozanda “Chilli” Thomas

Before hip-hop culture went mainstream and  Instagramming nearly naked photos of yourself was considered “feminism” there was TLC. Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins , Lisa, “Left Eye” Lopes and Rozanda “Chilli” Thomas embodied female empowerment as young women singing about relationships, sex, domestic violence and just about anything else your typical 20 something goes through. As the highest selling female R&B group of all time, TLC broke barriers and taught a generation of women about dealing with disease, trifling men, and how, if you’re not careful, you can rise to the top of the world and still be broke.

TLCatVMAsCrazy Sexy Cool: The TLC Biopic tells us the story of the 90s R&B trio through their eyes. We see how they came together, the various life events that almost tore them apart, their personal and professional tribulations and inner details of some of their most memorable moments, including losing their most outspoken member – Left Eye.

Since Left Eye (Lil’ Mama) isn’t around to tell her version of events, we see the entire story through the eyes of the two surviving members. This is apparent in how some of the characters are portrayed – Pebbles (Rochelle Aytes) is a jealous, manipulative, money hungry old woman with the cheapest quality wigs, and Darryl “Dallas” Austin (Evan Ross) could’ve been played by a better actor with at least a hint of personality. Instead we get a “My mom is famous so I got a job” actor with few actual lines and limited believability. But who am I to tell Chilli what Dallas Austin is really like right?

Lil Mama as "Left Eye" burning Andre Rison's house

Lil Mama as “Left Eye” burning Andre Rison’s house

Their bias is also apparent in Left Eye’s portrayal. As the only member not around to tell her own story, she’s also the only member who’s voice we never actually hear. Chilli (Keke Palmer) shares the story of her miscarriage and T-Boz (Drew Sidora) shares her health struggles but we’re constantly seeing Left Eye in the third person. We don’t sympathize when her ideas for the group are shut down, instead she’s kind of seen as the salty girl who’s not just “going with it”. As a result we see how the group go from three young women forming a friendship to T-Boz and Chilli being besties with Left Eye as their wacky third wheel friend. We do get a little insight into Left Eye’s character – there are moments when it’s obvious her erratic behavior is spurred by her troubled past and an ever looming feeling that she’s not being seen or heard – but we’re still not made to sympathize with her the same way we do with T-Boz and Chilli.

TLC-Biopic-Crazy-Sexy-Cool-Keke-PalmerDespite the apparent bias we do get a great glimpse of how the ladies professional and personal lives intertwined and finally saw what really went down with their money situation. Their son “Creep”? That’s about Chilli’s relationship with Dallas. That whole safe sex movement when the ladies literally wore condoms? That’s about Chilli’s miscarriage. “Waterfalls”? We all knew Left Eye wrote that rhyme on her way home from the halfway house, but this is as close as we get to looking at Lisa from Philly, as opposed to just “Left Eye”.

As great as it is, Crazy Sexy Cool does have it’s WTF? moments, including Chilli’s signature loose waves and baby hairs being mysteriously absent until the group is signed 30 minutes into the movie and Lil Mama’s struggle to conceal her Brooklyn accent. Despite these could-do-better moments (this is a TV movie after all) we do see a lot about the group that we didn’t learn in the pre-social media 90s era. They also took careful care to remind us of the little things like Left Eye’s signature bright scrunchies on her stingy ponytails/buns. Aah memories!

Real TLC vs. actors

Real TLC vs. actors

What is the best thing about this movie? You’ll NEVER guess. No, not the soundtrack full of TLC throwbacks as well as other 90s gems like “Groove is in the Heart”,  or even the fact that some of their original wardrobe is included – we see that dress Left Eye wore when she turned herself in to the cops – but Lil’ Mama’s surprising performance. Not only does the singer? rapper? host? actress nail Left Eye’s look but she manages to capture the late megastar’s energetic spirit, solemn inner child and hungry talent perfectly without overdoing it one bit. Even though Left Eye may not have been around to write her feelings into the script, Lil’ Mama did the best anyone could possibly do at making us feel for the young star. Don’t be surprised to see her up for an award for this performance. Probably nothing major like an Emmy but MTV, BET or the people in charge of the NAACP Image Awards have GOT to be watching!

I’d put Crazy Sexy Cool up there with Why Do Fools Fall in Love? in terms of made for TV biopics. They managed to sum up the ladies 10+ year career in two and a half hours and kept me entertained, while crying, throughout the whole film.

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One Response to “VH1’s CrazySexyCool biopic exceeds expectations”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Best and Worst Moments from the 2013 American Music Awards | Living Fiesta - November 25, 2013

    […] Mama may have killed it as Left Eye in VH1′s TLC biopic, but her performance with the surviving members of the group tanked. Not only was Lil Mama on a […]

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