I saw El Cantante last night, and overall I think it was a good film. The critics haven’t been very kind to this project, but I think that part of the criticism might stem from actually seeing J. Lo in a more serious role, where she isn’t a maid or a wedding planner or even very pleasant. Also, many critics have lamented that there wasn’t enough emphasis on Hector Lavoe and his artistry, which I can agree with to a certain extent. Before seeing this film, I had only read about and heard some of Hector Lavoe’s recordings. I have not read any biographical materials on him, so I cannot comment on the film’s accuracy.
Some might also be annoyed that the film focuses too much on Puchi, Hector’s wife played by Lopez. However, I think that for this film to work, they needed to rely on Jennifer because Marc Anthony is not as strong of an actor. When he is on stage performing, his character comes alive. Aside from the drug use, the film doesn’t focus much on what motivated him as an artist or delve much into what was causing his self-destruction. I could speculate that in many ways Puchi drove him to drink and drug because she was demanding, selfish, and an enabler, but there were probably other character issues brewing before Hector even met her. J. Lo had me convinced that she was Puchi, she had the bitchy Nuyorican accent, the gaudy gold jewelry, the carefully coiffed hair, and the hot dance moves. From the beginning, you know that she’s going to dominate the story in her own way because as narrator she exclaims that this is her version of the events.
The musical scenes are great. If you don’t know much about salsa, you will gain an understanding of the music’s complexity and richness. The lyrics are creatively subtitled in English to fit into the performance scenes. The movie is worth seeing just for the music alone.
If anything comes out of this film, I hope that it inspires the Hollywood establishment to take a closer look at films with a largely Latino cast. El Cantante certainly was creative. I’m already saddened that this film is not showing on many screens, and I’m here in Latinolandia. So if you have already seen many of the big films out this summer and are looking for something else, go see this one. I think that you might be pleasantly surprised. I know that I was.