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Cesar Chavez (2014) Reviewed By Jay

United States, 21 August 2013


Jay´s Review

This tepid PG-13 biopic illustrates the life and times of the civil-rights activist and labor organizer "Cesar Chavez." Director Diego Luna ("Milk" and "The Terminal") starts at the hot, dusty beginning and takes us up through the historic signing of the agreement between the California growers and the United Farmworkers' Union after a five-year strike and grape boycott which extended as far as Europe. (Yeah... I know, "Spoiler," but we all know, don't we?)

We see:

  • * Michael Peña ("End of Watch" and "American Hustle") does a capable but strangely non-charismatic job of portraying our eponymous hero. I'm a fan of Peña's, but ...maybe it's the direction?
  • * Rosario Dawson ("Gimme Shelter" and "Zookeeper") is front and center as Dolores Huerta, the dynamic co-founder of the United Farmworkers' Union.
  • * America Ferrera ("Under the Same Moon" and "Ugly Betty") is wonderful as Peña's stalwart wife, Helen.
  • * John Malkovich ("Red 1 & 2") demonstrates his multilingual skills by pronouncing the "v" in "Chavez" as a "b" which is correct; made me smile... His character is affiliated with the growers and disagrees with his attorney son who wants to negotiate. He thinks it's a big waste of college tuition. He too, is an immigrant, although the script doesn't explain.
  • * Jack Holmes ("Live at the Foxes Den") doesn't really look like Robert Kennedy, but the voice was spot on!

Through the judicious use of actual news clips plus staged scenes which illustrate the brutality of law enforcement agencies and Chavez's struggle to keep his strike non-violent, we witness an important piece of American history. We also see the price he and his family paid for his efforts.

Sometimes the soundtrack seems muted, particularly during the scenes that surround his hunger strike, so if you have a hearing problem, find a theater that offers Closed Captions. Perhaps Oscar-nominated scriptwriters Keir Pearson and Timothy J. Sexton did a better job than I thought; maybe I just couldn't hear the dialogue. Somehow, this just didn't seem to generate the passion and excitement I expected. In my opinion, it deserves better.

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