DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

VIVA (director: Paddy Breathnach; screenwriter: Mark O'Halloran; cinematographer: Cathal Watters; editor: Stephen O'Connell; music: Stephen Rennicks; cast: Hector Medina (Jesús),, Jorge Perugorria (Angel),, Luis Alberto Garcia (Mama),, Laura Aleman (Cecilia), Luis Manuel Alvarez (Cindy), Paula Ali (Nita), Jorge Martinez (Celeste),, Luis Angel Batista (Don), Luis Daniel Ventura (Kali), Maikol Villa Puey (William), Oscar Ibarra (Javier), Jorge Acosta (Lydia), Mark O'Halloran (Ray); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Cathleen Dore, Nelson Navarro Navarro, Robert Walpole, Rebecca O'Flanagan; Magnolia; 2015-Ireland-Cubain Spanish with English subtitles)

"Sentimental and emotional film about an aspiring drag queen and his desire to fulfill his dream."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Irish director Paddy Breathnach  ("I Went Down"/"Man About Dog") delves into the Havana drag scene in this sentimental and emotional film about an aspiring drag queen and his desire to fulfill his dream. Writer Mark O'Halloran weaves the story around a familiar coming-of-age story.

Jesus (
Hector Medina) is a gentle teenage hairdresser for a drag club in Havana, working on their wigs. Since his mom's death, he supports himself at the club and also by doing some male prostitution on the side. His dream is to perform in the club, and the maternal club owner, Mama (Alberto Garcia), gives him a tryout. During his first performance he's punched by his brutish macho ex-boxer father, Angel (Jorge Perugorria), who is not recognized by him. It was 15 years ago, when Jesus was 3, that his boorish father left home without further contact. Killing someone in a brawl, the rummy was imprisoned and only released because he was dying. Jesus is flustered when the bad dad moves into his slum neighborhood apartment and starts ordering him around, severely telling him not to perform anymore in the club. Performing in this case means the men are in makeup and women’s clothing and lip-sync to vintage torch songs, while the randy tourist and local drunk patrons indulge their fantasies.

While predictably father and son bond and their badly damaged relationship is repaired, as the opposites slowly try to understand each other. We are also treated to countless drama queen dramas. According to the pic, it seems every drag queen and whore in Havana has a soap opera story to lay on us.  In the end, Jesus takes the stage name of  Viva--and the youthful performer brings a new energy to the club and feels relieved to have at last his father's blessing to perform before he passes away.

REVIEWED ON 11/17/2016       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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