music friday: lucille bogan, “shave ‘em dry”
boardwalk empire, season two premiere

#47: my family/mi familia (gregory nava, 1995)

(This is the fourth of 50 pieces I’ll post here over the next several months. They originally appeared in a Facebook group devoted to three of us choosing our 50 favorite movies. I’ll present them un-edited except for typos or egregious errors. I’ll also add a post-script to each.)

This really does fit into the “favorite-not-best” category. I’m aware of this film’s flaws … as many times as I’ve watched it, I’m probably too aware of them. But it works for me, which puts me in a forgiving mood.

My Family (I’ve never been sure of the title … I’ve seen it many different ways, and the bilingual version is on the actual movie, but it’s usually referred to solely under its English title) pulls at your heartstrings so often you’ll need to come up for air. And I don’t usually like these kinds of movies, which too often take the cheap way to eliciting our emotions. My Family works for our responses, though, and while it is excessive, it doesn’t get cheap. It builds to one crescendo after another … immigrants are torn from their families, people risk their lives to save their families, various people’s lives take a wrong turn, which affects their families … you get the point.

I’m not sure why the movie works so well for me. The writing isn’t always great, but the overall ebb and flow (and flow and flow) allows us to get caught up in the emotionalism because we connect so closely to the characters in the family. It doesn’t hurt that there are some excellent performances in the film, with an iconic Esai Morales and the reliable Jimmy Smits being the best. There are also a lot of “hey, it’s that guy” moments, some involving pretty famous people. When Jennifer Lopez made this film, she was famous mostly for In Living Color. Constance Marie, who later spent several years playing George Lopez’s wife on TV, makes her film debut here. There’s Benito Martinez from The Shield, and Jenny Gago who was a beauty queen in Under Fire, and Michael DeLorenzo just as New York Undercover was making his name, and Scott Bakula and Mary Steenburgen, and Elpidia Carrillo from Predator.

Yes, there are flaws. The spoken narration from Edward James Olmos’ character tells us too much, and is too obvious, although at times it adds a nice touch of humor. The structure of the film is a bit of a mess; they’re trying to cover six decades in two hours, resulting in something more episodic than you’d like (it cries out for the HBO Mini-Series treatment). But something is going right, when a film that represents much of what I dislike about movies becomes one of my favorites.

 

 

This was the first of my posts that received no comments. I have no idea why … the group participants were a chatty bunch for the most part.

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