Luminarias

2000, Movie, R, 100 mins

Review

LUMINARIAS
starstarstarstar
A cheerful soap opera about four middle-class, Los Angeles-based Latinas looking for Mr. Right, this glossy indie recalls WAITING TO EXHALE but was actually written first. Andrea (Evelina Fernandez), Sofia (Marta Du Bois), Irene (Dyana Ortelli) and Lilly (Angela Moya) have been friends since college, despite their very different attitudes about men, sex, love and the importance of their Latin roots. They meet regularly at the upscale bar Luminarias to hash over their lives and loves. Lawyer Andrea is estranged from her husband Joe (Robert Beltran) after having caught him with a white woman. To her surprise, Andrea later finds herself falling for fellow lawyer Joseph (Scott Bakula), who's not only Jewish but on the opposite side of an emotional child custody case. Trendy clothing designer Irene has a complicated relationship with sex and religion: A a connoisseur of studly young Latinos, she's given up sex for Lent in deference to her devotion to the Virgin of Guadaloupe; she also believes homosexuality is a sin and is in denial about the sexuality of her cross-dressing brother (Geoffrey Rivas). Artist Lilly, haunted by the cruel childhood nickname "La Fea" (the ugly one) and the veteran of many exploitative relationships, finds true love with Lu (Andrew C. Lim), only to encounter prejudice in both the Latin and Korean communities. And upwardly mobile therapist Sofia dates only wealthy white men, until she falls for a Mexican waiter (producer Sal Lopez). Written by actress-turned-screenwriter Fernandez and directed by her husband, Jose Luis Valenzuela, this (mostly) English-language melodrama began life as a successful play produced at L.A.'s Latino Theater Company. Rejecting El Barrio cliches in favor of the conventions of mainstream romantic melodramas, this celebration of women's friendships is breezy and eminently watchable, a spirited mix of sitcom situations and trenchant observations about prejudice and cultural identity. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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