A biopic about a well known person and icon that's only around 100 minutes short? That should already set off a few alarm bells.

I'm not saying that this is a bad movie but it does feel like a rather simplistic one. It's somewhat of a shallow movie, without any good emotions, that's more like a telling of events, rather than an engaging biopic. Sure, it's somewhat informative to watch if you know absolutely nothing about Cesar Chavez yet and what he stood and 'fought' for but it's a movie that's only scraping the surface and really isn't doing or telling you anything that you can't get off from his Wikipedia page, so to speak.

Also one of the dangers about biopics often is that they are too much in love with its main subject and do nothing but praise him/her for the movie its duration. That's somewhat being the case for this movie as well. It's definitely a respectful movie toward Chavez and nothing wrong with that in itself but it's ridicules and distracting to see how all of the 'good' guys are portrayed as extremely good and righteous, church going people, while all of the 'bad' guys get portrayed as real villains, who take pleasure out of exploiting- and psychically harming people. And who knows, maybe Cesar Chavez really was a saint who never did a single thing wrong in his life but the fact that this movie is portraying all of its characters as either extremely good- or bad guys isn't going to help to let your movie come across as a fair, completely objective and authentic one.

But OK, maybe you shouldn't just see this movie as a Cesar Chavez biopic since after all, it's only covering a few years of his life and focuses primarily on just the Delano grape strike and the following boycott. It's therefor also really not a movie you should watch if you want to learn about Chavez his personal life and if you want to get into his mind and learn what drove him and kept him going, even when things got hard.

Perhaps that's also still the biggest disappointment about the movie; even though it's dealing with some dramatic themes, it never quite feels like a dramatic and emotionally effective movie as well. The movie is a bit of a too flat and simplistic one. It never goes deep enough and primarily just sticks to its main subject and all of his thoughts and emotions, while some more diversity and stronger supporting characters really wouldn't have done this movie any harm.

And because of this approach, most of the actors aren't ever given the opportunity to shine in their roles. The movie actually is filled with quite some well known actors in it but none of them impress much really. It even took me 30 minutes to finally realize that I was watching John Malkovich as the evil 'main villain' of the movie. He looked so different from his usual self but next to that, he just couldn't ever impress much, while he usually of course is always great and entertaining to watch as any type of villain, in any sort of movie.

All of the 'problems' of the movie could be brought back to the directing of it. Everything about the movie feels safe and formulaic, which indicates that it got done by an inexperienced director, without much confidence. It's obvious that Diego Luna never went to any 'directing school' and only watched directors work from a distance, during all of the movies that he had starred in as an actor. He got the basics rights but still doesn't quite know yet how to effectively tell a story as well, that's engaging and powerful to follow, while also maintaining a good balance between the writing, acting and directing of the movie.

Not trying to be too harsh on this movie, since it's definitely not a terrible one but it's still one that's doing quite a few things wrong and not effectively enough.

Still watchable and good enough as a movie but clearly not a must-see or Oscar contender, while they secretly maybe were hoping that it would be.


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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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