‘Flamin’ Hot’ Is A Charming Ode To A Relentless Spirit – Review
Decades ago, Frito-Lay was in a very complicated situation, with many factories closing down and many of its employees losing their jobs. The dream of one man changed the company’s trajectory with the creation of a single product, and his journey is beautifully captured in Eva Longoria’s directorial debut feature, Flamin’ Hot.
The story follows the life of Richard Montañez, a boy who used to live in a vineyard while his family worked extracting grapes under the unforgiving sun of Southern California. The movie first introduces the audience to Richard’s values and the philosophy that would drive him throughout the rest of the story.
As he grows up, Richard goes in the wrong direction, spending his time distributing drugs in his community to people who are a bad influence on him. Unable to find a better job, the protagonist spent his youth in a life of crime that almost got him sent to prison until a judge saw potential in him and decided to spare him as long as he showed better behaviour moving forward. Just when he was considering returning to his unhealthy lifestyle, his wife (Annie Gonzalez) got pregnant, and Richard finally accepted that he needed to find an actual job to provide a good life for the baby.
As Richard Montañez, Jesse Garcia delivers a powerful performance, giving audiences a taste of Richard’s struggle trying to advance in a world that was clearly not welcoming towards him. It didn’t matter if he confronted disrespectful co-workers or people who wouldn’t even want to give him a chance because of the colour of his skin; Richard always held his head high. Garcia brings nuance to a man who must teach himself how to move in an environment very different from the one he grew up in, opting for charisma and effort instead of the violence spreading throughout his community.
What Longoria and Lewis Collick, alongside Linda Yvette Chávez, the screenwriters behind the film, managed to execute flawlessly was the gentle atmosphere surrounding this heartwarming story. The problems Richard and his family faced were not watered down for the release, and the film wasn’t afraid to talk about how children suffer discrimination from an early age and the crushing weight of trying to survive under a very aggressive capitalism that doesn’t care about people who can’t move a ton of money around. Flamin’ Hot has a lot of cultural background to unpack for a story about the creation of spicy chips.
Another magical aspect of the origin story behind one of the most iconic snacks of the past decades was its supporting cast. Annie Gonzalez shines as Judy Montañez. Every time Richard needs the emotional support or a little encouragement from the people close to him, his wife is always there for him, and Gonzalez plays her like a woman who chooses to share her life with her partner every day, being present during his moments of doubt while still battling her own. It’s not that Judy didn’t believe in Richard’s potential, she did want to see him happy, but she was also worried about bringing enough food to the table for her kids.
Richard can’t climb up the corporate ladder without a mentor, and that’s when Clarence C. Baker (Dennis Haysbert) had to step in. As the person who knew the Frito-Lay machines better than anyone else in the factory, Clarence was quickly approached by Richard, but the movie’s protagonist didn’t know how things worked with the ranks yet, and he would soon learn that he needed to earn Clarence’s respect before talking to him. Eventually, the pair developed a sincere bond thanks to Richard’s kindness and charming desire to learn new things.
With sincere, wonderful performances and Eva Longoria’s emotional touch as a filmmaker, Flamin’ Hot is a tale that can bring the best out of anyone who takes the time to watch it. There’s no limit to your dreams as long as you keep taking small steps toward them, and this biopic is a soft reminder of that philosophy. Jesse Garcia shines as the man who thought about putting spice into Frito-Lay’s products to save the jobs of everyone involved. Love, effort and kindness are at the center of this story.