2000, R, 98 min. Directed by Jose Luis Valenzuela. Starring Cheech Marin, Robert Beltran, Lupe Ontiveros, Dyana Ortelli, Angela Moya, Marta Dubois, Scott Bakula, Evelina Fernandez.
REVIEWED By Hollis Chacona, Fri., July 14, 2000
Watching Luminarias is like going to a really great party. With wonderful music, interesting characters, and lots of laughter, this picture feels much bigger than it really is. Noisy and colorful and warm and funny, it's the story of four Latina friends who are struggling with love, sex, divorce, success, and a lifetime of anger and resentment from growing up brown in a white world. Rage is acknowledged and expressed, but love and acceptance are palpable and overpowering. Solid performances (Marin is especially unforgettable as the irascible but sagacious uncle), arresting art direction (two words: blue truck), and outrageous costuming (Irene's way-over-the-top miniature sombrero couture is absolutely worth the price of admission) bring this vivid and voluptuous mural to life. There are some unlikely plot developments and an often uneasy mix of social commentary and melodrama, but its very imperfections seem to work for the picture. A big, living, breathing film with a loud and steady heartbeat, Luminarias wouldn't be nearly as human or as much fun if it were perfect. That perfection would seem an artifice masking the story's human touch. [reprinted from SXSW Film reviews, 3/22/99]