“Flamin’ Hot”

Eva Longoria makes her feature film directorial debut in “Flamin’ Hot,” a breezy biopic about Richard Montanez, the man who invented the super spicy (and well known) flavor of Cheetos. This underdog story of a hardworking Mexican immigrant who found success despite all of the boxes society tried to put him in is one that’s inspiring, satisfying, and universal.

As a teenager, Montanez (Jesse Garcia) was in and out of trouble. As he puts it, “when society treats you like a criminal, you become one.” He was on the fast track to a permanent life of crime until his wife Judy (Annie Gonzalez) became pregnant with their first son. Searching for a better life for his new family, Richard relied on his street smarts and entrepreneurial attitude to go out and make his own success story. A go-getter from the start, he ended up working at Frito Lay and, after “thinking like a CEO,” came up with the idea to create a flavor that would appeal to the large Hispanic market and save the snack food industry.

It’s a terrific story that captures the Mexican-American experience that’s not often seen in mainstream films. Linda Yvette Chávez’s script feels deeply personal, and she takes Richard’s inspiring, complex story and gives us an intimate picture of the man behind the Cheetos. The result is a very human film about discrimination, determination, and the ability to get a leg up on life by pulling yourself out of a bad situation.

The story (which is actually controversial because there is a debate as to who really invented the snack flavor) is full of humor and heart. It’s a love story between Richard and Judy, his supporting, loving wife. She isn’t just a background character waiting in the shadows, but is presented as a very strong, tenacious woman who dominates every seen she’s in.

As is the case with most biopics, there’s obvious embellishment and exaggeration, and there’s no shortage of emotional fluffery that is designed to tug on your heartstrings. There’s plenty of discussion about having faith and living the American dream, which does feel as corny as it sounds.

There’s a lot of talk about representation in front of the camera, but it’s important behind the camera, too. Longoria put her money where her mouth is and hired a diverse crew for her film because who tells these stories also matters. The final product is something that radiates an authentic tone and feeling that is rare, especially for a biopic.

Longoria’s directorial style is polished and well-matched to the script, with a clear vision and voice. The cast is just as easy to love. Charismatic and sympathetic, I was rooting for Richard and Judy the minute they were introduced onscreen. Casting is so important in a film like this, and it couldn’t be more perfect.

Despite a predictable outcome and a few obvious exaggerations of the truth, “Flamin’ Hot” is an irresistible underdog story about a disruptor who shook up the snack food industry. It’s a funny, sweet, and delightful film that’s as crowd-pleasing as it gets.

By: Louisa Moore

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s