Despite its ungainly title, Darnell Martin’s debut is a lovely, well-rounded comedy-drama.Lauren Velez is superb as Lisette Linares, who bullshits her way into a music-promotion job in order to spring her hapless husband Chino (Jon Seda) from jail. Lisette also has to raise her three children, one of whom — a little boy who thinks he has to bring home the bacon — stumbles innocently into drug dealing; she contends with a neighborhood siren (Lisa Vidal) who insists Chino is the father of her baby; and she commiserates with her brother Alexis (Jesse Borrego), a transsexual saving up for the operation, shunned by their parents.
The movie is loud and clamorous but not in the empty-confrontational style of, say, Spike Lee’s weaker films; Martin has a light, democratic touch, and she brings out the best in her large cast. Even Griffin Dunne, as a resolutely whitebread music exec who becomes Lisette’s boss, isn’t demonized — Martin lets Dunne show us the self-defeating humor in this guy’s strained attempts to be on top of Latino pop culture.
Martin delivers a rarity, a feel-good movie without muck. Rita Moreno is great as Chino’s contemptuous mom. Moreno, Velez, and Seda all later worked for Martin on episodes she directed for the HBO drama Oz.Sadly, aside from the 2001 drama 'Prison Song,' Martin has only directed for television since this film.