Cesar Chavez Review
I think the biographical genre is a troubled genre. A studio will come together and find an important person in history and make a movie out of their life. The sad part about the genre is that each film made within it seems to come from the same template, which is disappointing. The other major problem with the genre is that just because someone did something big or important, doesn't automatically mean their story will translate out into a movie.
A movie about Cesar Chavez has been the dream project of director Diego Lunas for many years. His passion for the project is laced into every scene of "Cesar Chavez." The attention to detail is quite astounding and the technical merits of the film are incredibly high. Not only that, but the cast does everything Lunas asked them to do and more. Michael Pena has been waiting for years for the right role to set him loose, and I think he just arrived at it. Pena is easily one of the best actors of his generation and he creates striking power as Chavez. Rosario Dawson, America Ferrara, John Malkovich and Wes Bentley round out the rest of the important cast members in the picture, and they all do equally unflinching work. Setting these actors, on their rustic sets and filling the background with a magnificent score sounds like a great film. It sounds like a film which would be fitting for an actor like Chavez. I will also go as far to say that I think the film makes some insightful comments on unionization, immigration and the old racism problem that once plagued (and somewhat still does plague) our beloved country. Lunas made some great choices with his film here, and it is hard for me not to highlight them.
That is right about where the problems begin. The sad part about "Cesar Chavez" is that it is built like 95% of all other biographical films. "Cesar Chavez" is a Wikipedia page version of Chavez' life. Instead of focusing on one particular defining moment or a couple defining moments, Lunas tries to stuff Chavez' entire life into a film that isn't even two hours long. The problem with doing that is we never get a real sense of a character and it feels like a movie, that is definitely a problem with "Cesar Chavez." It also doesn't help that Lunas' screenwriters wrote the most boring version of this story possible. This is exactly what you'd expect a movie about Cesar Chavez to look like. There is no tension or no gripping drama anywhere in the story, so the whole movie just passes by lifelessly.
Even the writing attached to these characters is quite tedium. I think what Chavez accomplished is very important and I think he was an intelligent and innovative person, but the most I got out of this movie was that he was a Hispanic Martin Luther King. I know for a fact there was more to him than that, I know there were aspects about Chavez's life that made him a unique civil rights activist, yet none of it is demonstrated in the film. The villains in the film are obviously white, yet they are written so broadly that I expected them all to be twirling mustaches in every scene. Nobody is given a solid narrative, Pena truly tries to strangle life out of this movie, but it simply doesn't work. He falls to the weight of the sloppy script.
Its too bad that this movie doesn't add up to anything overly-special. "Cesar Chavez" is just your standard biographical film and that's sad all around.
FINAL GRADE: C