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Overall Rating
2.24

Awesome: 13.04%
Worth A Look: 13.04%
Average: 2.17%
Pretty Bad: 28.26%
Total Crap43.48%

5 reviews, 16 user ratings


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Cantante, El
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by brianorndorf

"Like all the other music bio-pics, but still convincing"
4 stars

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: an inexperienced singer, fueled by hopes of stardom, rises from poverty to become a sensation, marries the girl of his dreams, and then loses it all to...wait for it...drugs! Now how many times have we shuffled down this road? Perhaps there will come a time when a musical bio-pic doesn’t hang its hat on misery, but at the end of the day, “El Cantante” is pretty darn good despite the odious familiarity of the ingredients.

Hector Lavoe (Marc Anthony) is a Puerto Rican kid hunting for fame in New York City during the 1960s. Finding the call of the burgeoning salsa movement spoke to his talents, Lavoe took to the stage and refused to back down for over 30 years. His success afforded Lavoe luxuries beyond imagination, including a wife, Puchi (Jennifer Lopez), who adored him and a buffet of drugs, which he took to as easily as the music, sliding him into a depressive state that killed his career and took his life in 1993.

Drugs, martial spats, the ups and downs of a singing career…the average big screen biography of a musician doesn’t deviate very far from a specific formula. The best the audience can hope for is a filmmaker behind the whole enterprise who has a clear understanding of musical expression, and well, a dynamite cast to help distract from the obvious.

“El Cantante” fills both requirements agreeably, making filmmaker Leon Ichaso (the glacial “Pinero”) a very lucky man. Lavoe’s life as compacted into this film is a predictable tilt-a-whirl of psychological disorder and chemical dependency, but what struck me the most about “El Cantante” was how Ichaso delves into the nightmare right from the start. There’s little horsing around with Lavoe’s drug years, and to introduce that unpleasant element early into the film lends the picture an unsteadiness that prepares the viewer for the eventual downfall of genius. It’s an appreciated step by the director, and saves “El Cantante” from much eye-rolling and potential snores.

Also boosting the film are the performances by Anthony and Lopez. While the gossip pages rag on their co-starring appearance here, the bottom line is, they bring out the best in each other. The couple enjoys a combative relationship, with Puchi holding her family together while Lavoe was lost in a chemical fog, leading to an HIV diagnosis and a suicide attempt. The love between the two is deformed but loyal, and Ichaso keeps his frame tight around them, yanking out impressive performances, especially from Lopez, who cans her obnoxious baby talk acting crutches to deliver a full-throated rendering of Latina fire-breathing. She’s a devil in a red dress, praying for a way to make Lavoe love her as much as he loves his heroin. For Lopez, the performance is a revelation.

The music is truly the star of the show in “El Cantante,” and no matter where you end up seeing this movie, make sure the volume is dialed all the way up. Ichaso drops the viewer in the middle of the salsa boom, painstakingly editing several musical montages that sizzle with brassy lust and ache with romantic longing. Employing flamboyant handheld camerawork and emotionally tweaked subtitles, there’s a primal groan to “El Cantante” that liberates the picture when it goes on too long (an easy 20 minutes should’ve been chopped from the film), or when the cyclical nature of battling spouses starts to tax the average tolerance level. When all is said and done, Lavoe’s greatest achievement is the library of music that lives on today as a testament to his talent and the durability of his musical genre. Ichaso respects that sonic might, and “El Cantante” is an accomplished recreation of the cultural movement that destroyed a man while it changed the world.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=15004&reviewer=404
originally posted: 08/03/07 16:56:30
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2006 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/24/07 William Goss About as generic as musician biopics come. Lopez is especially grating. 1 stars
8/26/07 Adriana Excellent Film! The couldn't have found more perfect actors for the roles! 5 stars
8/25/07 Lyn BEST MOVIE OF THE YEAR. FUCK EVERYONE WHO SAYS IT ISN'T! 5 stars
8/05/07 Pedro El Cantante es muy malo 1 stars
8/05/07 Bill Gosse Someone should teach Peter the value of shorter paragraphs...and how to write. 2 stars
8/04/07 mg superb acting, music, i'd see it again 5 stars
7/20/07 JC THIS IS THE WORST MOVIES OF THE YEAR EL CANTANTE 1 stars
7/17/07 Ray Atonishing! Definitele Lavoe is the latin Elvis Presley. A must see. 5 stars
9/29/06 jesus I Say in spanish: Es una porqueria, las peliculas de Lopez son mierda 1 stars
9/29/06 Michelle Total Crap!! makes Gigli look like a an Ocar contender 1 stars
9/19/06 Diane Browne This is one of the most boring films I have ever seen. Don't waste your time. 1 stars
9/19/06 Jack Handy UGG.. 1 stars
9/18/06 Margaret AWESOME MOVIE! Definitely a Must SEE! 5 stars
9/15/06 LOREN RIDINGER INCREDIBLE FILM.. MUST SEE. JENNIFER AND MARC SHOULD GET AN OSCAR 5 stars
9/15/06 TOM NEVINS ONE OF THE WORST FILMNS I EVER SEEING!!!! A TOTAL CRAP! 1 stars
9/15/06 Rafa Great Music (better said incredible music)--BUT---the script and acting bad. 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  03-Aug-2007 (R)
  DVD: 30-Oct-2007

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