Eva Longoria’s directorial debut, Flamin’ Hot, had its world premiere at this year’s SXSW Film & TV Festival. Unfortunately, I had to miss this screening, as I had a family event to attend. Right before its release on Hulu, the Cine Las Americas International Film Festival had the movie as its opening night feature. Since I heard lots of positivity regarding this movie from people who attended the SXSW screening, there was no way I was missing the opportunity to enjoy it at CLAIFF 25.
Like many winning underdog stories, Flamin’ Hot tells the story of Richard Montañez (Jesse Garcia), a bold, enthusiastic, and big-hearted husband and father who has struggled most of his life to succeed. However, success does not come quickly to high school dropouts, but that doesn’t mean it is impossible. After several illegal detours, Richard decides to play it straight for the benefit of his family. He finally gets a promising opportunity when he gets hired at a Frito-Lay factory in his hometown California.
Though he starts as a sanitation worker, Montañez’s aspirations drive him to learn as much about the operations in the factory, along with the recent struggles the corporation is currently facing. It finally occurs to him that a vastly underserved market exists in the Hispanic/Latin community. Much of this population loves spicy flavors, and none of the Frito-Lay products offer this. After experimenting with various peppers and spices, Montañez, his devoted wife Judy (Annie Gonzalez), and their supportive children devise a brand new recipe that will take the snack world by storm.
With a screenplay written by Lewis Colick and Linda Yvette Chavez, based on the autobiography A Boy, a Burrito and a Cookie: From Janitor to Executive by Richard Montañez and the life stories of Richard and Judy Montañez, Eva Longoria proves that she is much more than an actor, by showing her mad skills as a director of this entertaining, moving, and highly lovable film. Though the story does cover some familiar territories, this never wholly takes away from the overall experience. Longoria and the writers never get too heavy-handed or ham-fisted regarding the material. This movie genuinely works well as a delightful piece of heartwarming cinema.
What helps make Flamin’ Hot work so well are its cast members, particularly the two leads, Jesse Garcia and Annie Gonzalez, who wonderfully portray Richard and Judy Montañez. Both actors put much enthusiasm, energy, and emotions into their roles and do so genuinely and realistically. The movie also features a solid turn by Dennis Haybert as Clarence C. Baker, one of Richard’s superiors and mentors, help him achieve his goals at Frito-Lay.
I sincerely wish that this movie had received a theatrical release. Though not the usual visual spectacle one demands from a theatrical release, this movie has enough spice, excitement, love, and spirit to galvanize and inspire its audiences. Flamin’ Hot is now available for streaming on Hulu and Disney+, and it is a movie I highly recommend.