SXSW: The movie captures the look, feel and taste of the 70s and 80s
Biopics, especially those that err on the mainstream side and are led by a major studio, can go wrong and err. From bad casting and missing scripts to directorial missteps and even sensational stories that blur the truth, the world has had its fair share of misguided glimpses into the lives of history’s most fascinating people.
Richard Montañez, the man who claims to have invented the “flamin’ hot” Cheeto is one such person, especially when you consider the times his story has supposedly been debunked. But his biopic, aptly titled “Flamin’ Hot,” is far from bad, lacking, or flawed. Eva Longoria’s directorial debut on the power of identity and resilience is too fun to miss, whether the real story holds any weight or not.
Jesse Garcia stars as Montañez, a self-proclaimed and charismatic Southern California “vato” who retires from a life of criminal dealings to clean up his act while supporting Judy (Annie Gonzalez), his wife, and his wife. childhood sweetheart, and Their children. He ends up with a job as a janitor at a Frito-Lay factory where he lends his elbow grease to making connections, learning on the job, and supporting his family in a tumultuous economy – but a unique idea in a life was born out of his proud Mexican heritage eventually putting him in front of the right people and catapulting him to success.
While the opening moments of “Flamin’ Hot” set the scene, you’re in for something fast and fun right from the start. Garcia’s narration guides the audience through a series of amusing one-liners and bright, lively imagery that draws the viewer in as the story begins to take shape. The film gives great historical context to the 1970s and 1980s as it relates to Southern California Mexican culture while giving Montañez’s story a cinematic and exciting feel with its pacing and visual styles. That says a lot about Longoria’s directorial eye, which is undoubtedly strong.
The film has a clear voice from the opening, and Longoria’s choice to tell the story in a way that makes every beat both urgent and exciting is proof of that. Because of the way it visually shapes and reinforces the narrative – with the help of textual work from co-writers Lewis Colick Linda and Yvette Chávez – you feel compelled to accompany Montañez on the journey of how he arrived. where he is today.
Along the way, the film immerses you visually with bright colors and retro production and costume design, and aurally with Spanish slang and catchy music of the era. It goes the extra mile to make the audience feel like Montañez throughout the film, from the moment he is first introduced to the vast and intimidating Frito-Lay factory, to the moment he decides for the premiere. times to call upon his faith in one of his many moments of need, drawing us into his emotional core.
Pushing that sentiment to the max, the film does an incredible job of engaging audiences with beautiful displays of cultural pride, especially when it comes to food as the film’s focal point. You can almost taste the dishes and snacks on screen, and you can tell they’re made with love by the way they’re filmed with precision and interest. Throughout the film, cinematographer Federico Cantini proves he’s as good at filming delicious treats as he is at framing vivid, inherently human shots of the film’s subjects.
A movie may look appealing and the script may be well written, but if the performance is lacking, it derails the train. “Flamin’ Hot” doesn’t have that problem. Protagonists Garcia and Gonzalez are incredibly charismatic as people and as a team, and they carry the film through their characters’ authentic love story.
But Montañez de Garcia builds other links throughout the film. His connection to factory engineer Frito-Lays Clarence (an intimidating but lovable Dennis Haysbert) feels real and full of layered experience from both characters, as well as the actors themselves and their work. It’s also a driving force in the film, and as the two characters learn from each other through persistence, their friendship helps cement the narrative as a story of resilience.
“Flamin’ Hot” is also a story of love and support and how those kindnesses nurture and foster amazing things that last. The film is as much a love letter to the idea that our identities are our strength and that’s what “Flamin’ Hot” needs to function. Fortunately, the real energy of Longoria’s feature debut makes it an engaging and thought-provoking watch.