for her multitude of fans is like reviewing a Disney flick for kids: futile.
They will go see it anyway and nothing is going to stop them. Witness people
paying $50 to see "Selena" at the Dallas premiere, three days
before it opens nationwide. That the story is bland, boring, and way too
long at two hours and eleven minutes is beside the point. She has been beatified,
so the film will make millions.
Selena, for those unaware, conquered the male-dominated Tejano music world
and was on the verge of crossing over to mainstream music when she was gunned
down by the president of her fan club. At twenty-three, she had been an
inspiration to Mexican-Americans and a joy to all music lovers. I had hoped
her bio would give a sense of how she managed to climb to the top, what
was so special about her, where did the charisma come from. Instead we see
a vanilla Latina whose biggest defiance is to go bungee jumping. The story
is actually dominated by her father, Abraham Quintanilla, portrayed by Edward
James Olmos. A-ha! There is the answer to all that is wrong with "Selena".
Quintanilla had Warner Brothers and everyone else over a barrel when it
came time to put Selena's story on the screen. He had control of it, just
like he had control of her. So the stories of his browbeating Selena, A.B.,
and Suzette into fulfilling his own unrealized dreams of being a musician
are turned into those of a good-natured dreamer who nurtures his family's
ambitions. His comical antics as klutz make him more likable but even his
careful attention to grooming his own image can't hide the fact that Selena
and her siblings spent their youth on the road, the road to Abraham's success.
I loved writer/director Gregory Nava's "My Family/Mi Familia"
with it's warm but honest look at being a Mexican-American. So I guess I
expected more from him and from the cast, who had also worked with him before.
Jennifer Lopez, who stars as Selena, Olmos, Constance Marie as Selena's
mother, and Jacob Vargas as her brother, A.B. and Lupe Ontiveros as Yolanda
Saldivar all had experience with Nava. But given the Quintanilla's agenda
of putting Selena and company in the best possible light, the director/writer
had plenty of restrictions. Even the outstanding Olmos is left to pontificate
on the struggles of being a Mexican-American. But applause from the primarily
Hispanic audience at the screening I was at means that what he said must
have hit a nerve.
Were her famous bustiers and tights the secret to Selena's success? Quintanilla
said in a recent interview "She wasn't hiding her Latina-ness. Tight
pants with the big butt and the whole thing and people were loving it. All
the Anglo guys were saying she's beautiful. There she was with that figure
which is beautiful, but everybody is taught to be ashamed of. Here she is
telling people there was no reason to be ashamed. How liberating that is."
No, it takes more than that to make it big, but "Selena" will
not answer any questions about her success, her rumored involvement with
the married designer who helped her with her boutiques, or her father's
domination. He has made sure of that. So if you want to get to know her,
listen to her music. That's where Selena lives. Rated PG. Warner Bros.