Papi Chulo


The new odd couple.

(2018) Dramedy (Blue Fox/Breaking GlassMatt Bomer, Alejandro Patiño, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Elena Campbell-Martinez, Michael Shepperd, Ryan Guzman, Tommie Earl Jenkins, Shaun Buchholz, Tom Beyer, Irene White, Caitlin Kimball, Marisa Szczepan, Brandon Kyle Goodman, Blaine Swen, Martin Morales, Nick Bush, Blaine Mizer, Rosemary Dominguez. Directed by John Butler

 

Loneliness does things to people. It preys on them from the inside, chews up their souls and turns them into people they won’t even recognize when they look themselves in the mirror. To be blunt, loneliness sucks.

Sean (Bomer) is an L.A. weatherman who is still reeling, six months later, after the end of his romantic relationship with ex-husband Carlos. Unable to move on, he has a mini-nervous breakdown on the air, unaccountably sobbing while reading the weather. His boss (McLendon-Covey) wisely tells him to take some time off and get himself right. Sean would rather not; taking time off with nothing to do might force him to face his loneliness and he’s clearly not ready to do this.

The last vestige of Carlos is a tree in a planter on the deck of his hillside mansion with a spectacular view; when he has the plant removed, Sean notices a circle on the deck where the plant had been. Not being handy in the least, he determines that he needs to have his deck repainted. Sean decides to hire someone from a group of migrant workers who hang out at his local hardware store, looking for work. He selects Ernesto (Patiño) and soon the two form a bond, even though Ernesto’s English is shaky and Sean’s Spanish even more so.

Sean finds himself paying Ernesto to hang out with him, going on hikes in Runyon Canyon, being his plus one at a party of his friends and even gets Ernesto to row him on a local lake. Ernesto reports all of this to his incredulous wife Linda (Campbell-Martinez), scarcely able to believe it himself but 20 bucks an hour is 20 bucks an hour, so if the gringo wants to pay him to hang out, Ernesto doesn’t mind. Besides, Ernesto is inherently a kind man who recognizes the pain Sean is in.

You can kind of see where this is going, but oddly enough it manages to get there without completely being predictable. The emphasis here is on Bomer, which is a bit of a shame; I found Ernesto to be a far more captivating character and would have liked a little more of his point of view. Still, Bomer is a strong actor and while Sean occasionally does creepy things, he still remains at least to a certain degree to be relatable.

Butler is a good filmmaker with strong shot composition and manages to insert some truly poignant moments. He also resists the temptation to make Ernesto the wise old Mexican whose folk wisdom will solve all of Sean’s problems; in fact, Ernesto doesn’t really understand a good deal of what Sean is telling him. He just half-smiles, nods and lens an ear, which is what Sean really needs.

Some reviewers have criticized the film for being racist, but to be honest I didn’t see it and I’m Hispanic. As I said, I would have appreciated more of Ernesto’s point of view, but Sean never talks down to Ernesto nor does he treat him as an inferior. The only knock that I might see against Sean is that he really doesn’t show much interest in learning Ernesto’s culture or language and doesn’t seem all that curious about Ernesto’s problems. Something tells me it would have been a much better movie if he had.

REASONS TO SEE: A bit on the oddball side but definitely warm-hearted.
REASONS TO AVOID: Some of Sean’s actions are a bit creepy.
FAMILY VALUES: There’s a fair amount of profanity and a bit of sexual innuendo.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The film had its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival in 2018.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AppleTV, Fandango Now, Google Play, HBO Go, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 11/18/19: Rotten Tomatoes: 74% positive reviews: Metacritic: 42/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Driving Miss Daisy
FINAL RATING: 6.5/10
NEXT:
Mickey and the Bear

Pick of the Litter – June 2019


BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

Toy Story 4

(Disney*Pixar) Starring the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Annie Potts. With Andy having grown up and gone to college, the gang from Andy’s room now have a new child to take care of – Bonnie. Bonnie has some toys of her own including one she made as a craft project; Forky. However, Forky has rejected his place as a toy and runs away. When the gang goes to bring him back, it leads to a reunion with an old friend and new dangers to overcome. June 21

INDEPENDENT PICKS

Framing John DeLorean

(Sundance Selects) Alec Baldwin, Morena Baccarin, Michael Rispoli, Dean Winters. The incredible but true story of John DeLorean, a visionary and fraud who captured headlines in the 1980s for his revolutionary car and his spectacular fall. This film is a combination documentary and biopic that tells the tale. June 7

Late Night

(Amazon) Emma Thompson, Mindy Kaling, John Lithgow, Hugh Dancy. A veteran late-night talk show host whose show has been slowly withering away hires a perky woman of color to augment her all-white male writing staff and ends up finding her funny again. June 7

I Am Mother

(Netflix) Clara Rugaard, Rose Byrne (voice), Hilary Swank, Luke Hawker. A kindly robot raises a teenage girl underground following the extinction of mankind. Dedicated to repopulating the earth, they live a quiet life until a mysterious woman, still inexplicably alive, arrives with disturbing news. June 7

Papi Chulo

(Blue Fox) Matt Bomer, Alejandro Patiño, Elena Campbell-Martinez, Wendi McLendon-Covey. An L.A. weatherman, in the midst of a personal crisis, hires a day laborer to refinish his deck. The two form an unlikely friendship which takes them both in unexpected directions in their lives. June 7

The Dead Don’t Die

(Focus) Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Adam Driver, Selena Gomez. It’s the Zombie Apocalypse, Jim Jarmusch-style as the pleasant town of Centerville takes on an army of the undead ravening for human flesh. At last, the answer to the question “What if an acclaimed and revered indie icon directed an episode of The Walking Dead. NB: Not to be taken seriously. June 14

The Last Black Man in San Francisco

(A24) Jimmie Falls, Jonathan Majors, Tichina Arnold, Danny Glover. A young man dreams of reclaiming the gorgeous Victorian home his grandfather built in the heart of San Francisco. However, the city is not the same as he remembered it and perhaps that dream has already slipped through his fingers. This Sundance hit is already being discussed as a possible Oscar contender. June 14

American Woman

(Roadside Attractions) Sienna Miller, Christina Hendricks, Aaron Paul, Amy Madigan. When a 32-year-old Pennsylvania woman’s teenage daughter disappears, she is left to raise her infant granddaughter alone. The movie follows the eleven-year journey for the mom to eventually find out what happened to her girl. June 14

Nightmare Cinema

(Cinelou) Mickey Rourke, Richard Chamberlain, Patrick Wilson, Elizabeth Reaser. This horror anthology includes five works by some of the best directors in the business; Mick Garris, Joe Dante, Ryûhei Kitamura, David Slade and Alejandro Bruguės. Five strangers convene at a movie theater where a sinister projectionist shows them their deepest fears and darkest secrets. June 21

 

Maiden

(Sony Classics) Tracy Edwards. In 1989, skipper Tracy Edwards assembled an all-female crew and entered them into the Whitbread Around the World Race, one of the most grueling and dangerous sporting events there is. Nobody believed that these women could do it – not even themselves at times. This documentary covers the incredible true story of some unsung heroines of sailing. June 28

This Changes Everything

(Good Deed) Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman. This documentary takes a hard look at gender disparity in Hollywood, from the #MeToo movement to the lack of women in the executive structures while at the same time introducing us to some new voices in feminist filmmaking. June 28