Viva – Overview/ Review (with Spoilers)

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Overview

Like many LGBT films, there is a search for love and family in a life in which those two things aren’t consistent. However, this is not a coming of age film since our lead, Jesus, is likely into his 20s and is at that point where he is just trying to pay the rent. Sometimes by any means necessary.

Rating:
TV Viewing

Trigger Warning(s):
Homophobia, prostitution, and alcoholism.

Characters Worth Noting

Jesus (Héctor Medina) | Angel (Jorge Perugorria) | Mama (Luis Alberto Garcia) | Cecilia (Laura Aleman) | Javier (Oscar Ibarra Napoles)

Main Storyline (with Commentary)

In the heart of Cuba, you will find Jesus. A local hairdresser without a shop, someone who is a sex worker from time to time, and is now looking to be a drag performer. Mind you, not because he feels he is a woman or anything like that, but more so because it is steady pay and better than being a bottom for tourist. However, just as Mama, the local drag mother, gives him a chance at his bar, so comes Angel.

Now, your father returning from being away for so long for many would be something to be thankful for. However, being that Jesus hasn’t seen his father since he was a toddler, and his father doesn’t support Jesus being drag, he complicates things. Though for Jesus, what isn’t complicated? He hasn’t a boyfriend or any prospects, and love is fleeting and circumstantial. For example, he has had a friend since childhood named Cecilia, but it seems that at this point the main thing she wants out of Jesus is his bed to sleep with men in and as for what he gets out of their relationship? Well, that remains to be seen. Then when it comes to his father, there is a weird mix of wanting his father’s love and yet with his father being an ex-con deadbeat, so comes disdain. Something quickly washed over as Jesus realizes his dad is as alone in the world as he is, and on top of that dying. Leading to a high tolerance for his dad’s beliefs, even as he finds himself hooking in order to keep a roof over the both of their heads. All the while, Mama tries to help, but there is only so much he is willing to do for he isn’t trying to get into a fight with Angel, who formerly was a boxer.

Review Summary

Highlights

The Music: Drag singers singing Spanish, and assumingly Cuban, music is part of the heart of this movie. To the point, I’d imagine if I understood Spanish, perhaps the song choices would reflect each and every drag queen’s life. For it seems their song choices reflect who they are, what they have gone through, and they lip sync their life out on stage. So with such soulful music being Jesus’ choice, much less old music to everyone in Mama’s club, likely it connects with him due to all he had to do to reach this point in his life.

Jesus is Loveable: Medina to me is the type of actor you hope doesn’t have one great and interesting role, and then they disappear into obscurity. For while, as noted in the low points, the boy doesn’t bring you to tears with any of this relationships, I feel with time and effort he could have such a talent too. For the softness which is required for the effeminate Jesus grabs hold of you and there is something about Medina’s presence which isn’t like Tom Cruise or Will Smith, where it is instantly capturing you, yet as you watch you connect with who he seems to be and he makes you want to invest.

Low Points

Lack of Emotion & Development: Let me just state, it has probably been a while since I cried because of a movie or show, but this seemed ripe for emotion. However, everything here seems so surface level. To begin, Cecilia and Jesus’ friendship you’d think would have had more power since she was the one who kept him from getting his ass kicked as a child. Yet with him not allowing her to bring her boyfriend Javier to his bed so she and Javier could have sex, the friendship took a pause. Which to me was ridiculous and on top of that she called him a faggot for saying no to her. Thus leaving Jesus without any friends outside of one who does sex work and the drag queens. However, he doesn’t sweat losing Cecilia at all.

Then when it comes to the drag queens, while they all have a story, unlike in most films, there isn’t this desire to know more about them. Everything is matter of fact when it comes to them sharing fathers who were not understanding and them talking about beauty, being good on stage, and how each other look. Which was unfortunate to me for it left us without them exploring what it means to be gay or trans in Cuba. They just touch on it, like you touch water in a pot to see if it is hot, and then they leave the topic alone.

Lastly, when it comes to Angel, again there is a story ripe for the taking. A father getting to know the son he hasn’t seen since he was barely out of diapers. Yet what we are given is warped and basic. Angel finds Jesus thanks to Cecilia being spiteful. Angel crashes at Jesus’ place and tries to control his life as if Jesus is still a teenager; Jesus tries to rebel but fears his father more than respects him; as he learns his dad is an embarrassment to others and Jesus is to him, and he is dying, Jesus begins to want to put his father first; and as much as that may sound compelling to someone, believe me when I say it is boring enough to fall asleep to. For Perugorria may know how to act, but he doesn’t put on a performance. Assuming that makes sense.

Questions, Comments, or Opposing Opinion?