I Like It Like That

This stunning 1994 debut by writer-director Darnell Martin was the first movie by a woman from a ghetto background to be produced by a major studio. A raucous comedy-drama about a volatile Latino couple trying to raise their three kids and stay out of troublewith the world and with each otherin a Bronx ghetto, it manages a truce between Hollywood pizzazz and authenticity while positively jumping with energy (though it runs out of steam a little before the end). The charismatic heroine, played by Lauren Veleza mulatto, like Martingoes after a job with a recording executive (Griffin Dunne) after her husband (Jon Seda) tries to steal a stereo and winds up in jail; among the other characters are her brother (Jesse Borrego), who’s a transvestite botanica owner, and her downstairs neighbor and worst enemy (Lisa Vidal), who’s an unwed mother trying to wangle away her husband. (Rita Moreno also does a delightful turn as her disapproving mother-in-law.) While keeping up a frenetic pace, the movie manages to speak thoughtfully about parenting, marital sex problems, jealousy, gossip, lotteries, record promotion, inner-city crime, and homophobia. It’s not common to find so much bombast and wisdom coexisting, but from the evidence offered here Darnell Martin is an uncommon talentoffering an eyeful as well as an earful. (JR)

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