In Washington Heights, everyone nurses a broken dream. With one bodega on every block, personality is a major selling point here. Eddie Ramirez (the great Tomas Milían) is a proud Dominican immigrant who gives back to the community: men play dominoes outside his store; the ladies don’t have to pay their tabs; and jobs are made readily available to Cuban refugees “just off the boat.” His son Carlos (Manny Perez) has dreams of becoming a cartoonist for Gotham Comics but the old man refers to the studs and buxom beauties of his son’s soulless creations as mere muñequitos. While films like Chasing Papi claim to represent the Hispanic cultural experience in America, Washington Heights actually delivers on its own promise. Director Alfredo de Villa negotiates the many emotional rifts that exist between immigrants and their American-born children. When Eddie is shot and paralyzed from the waist down, Carlos has to run his father’s store and change the man’s dirty diapers. De Villa fascinatingly subverts the father-son dynamic here, and the devastation and embarrassment on his actors’ faces says everything that needs to be said about the moral quandaries first-generation Latinos and their children must trudge through in modern-day America. Both sex and comics take on lives of their own as a series of metamorphic displacements and evolutions. Soon after Carlos ignores his girlfriend during sex, he cheats on her and finds himself similarly disregarded. And when Carlos finally does find his groove, de Villa fabulously evokes a spiritual awakening via the man’s drawings. The gargantuan breasts of his intergalactic beauties are turned on their side and become the sandy landscape that his new and displaced Latin creations must negotiate. De Villa is a more competent storyteller than visualist and while the film’s ending leaves several threads untied, this very open endedness evokes the Latin community’s uncertain and ongoing struggle to carve a niche for itself in America without losing sight of its cultural beat. Despite its little imperfections, Washington Heights exists to make the Miguel Piñeros of the world proud.
- MAC Releasing
- 80 min
- Alfredo de Villa
- Manny Perez, Alfredo de Villa, Nat Moss
- Tomas Milian, Manny Perez, Danny Hoch, Jude Ciccolella, Andrea Navedo, Bobby Cannavale, David Zayas, Callie Thorne, Judy Reyes
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