Flamin’ Hot Cheetos! I grew up in South Texas, and I love super-spicy food. I, along with countless others, loved it when Frito-Lay launched its “Flamin’ Hot” line of products. Eva Longoria, who grew up in Corpus Christ, not as far south as I decided to make her directorial debut with the story (a version) of the origin of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Longoria’s freshman effort premiered during SXSW 2023 at the legendary Paramount Theater to a packed house, and if the cheers were indicative of success, the movie will find success.
Notably, SXSW audiences make premieres super exciting, even the bad ones, but thankfully, Longoria’s is good. It’s not perfect and certainly leans more towards Hollywood-sanitized, but it works to tell the story (as he tells it) of high school dropout Richard Montañez’s rise from janitor to an executive for Frito Lay. While the LA Times recently threw out a curveball asserting that Montañez did not have a hand in creating the famous spicy product, Montañez’s story is plausible. It makes for a feel-good film where the underdog wins with tenacity and a fantastic supporting wife and kids. Still, it must be noted that in real life, no record exists demonstrating that Montañez had any role in the creation or initial marketing of the Flamin’ Hot brand. However, he rose through the ranks from plant worker to marketing director at Frito-Lay.
What I enjoyed most about the story, written by Linda Yvette Chávez and Lewis Colick, was the lightheartedness of the telling, but truthfully, it becomes more sanguine than substantial. The characters, especially Richard (Jessie Gracia) and his wife Judy (Annie Gonzalez), are almost too redeeming and adorable. Still, with the real Richard and Judy in the house, one could clearly feel their affection for each other. The ensemble cast is strong, and during the Q&A, it was apparent that the chemistry between them is natural. Longoria looked stunning, and her love for the project shined through.
Like many rags-to-riches stories, Richard’s isn’t anything special, but Longoria and her talented cast, editor, and crew make Flamin’ Hot a charming, amusing ride. Richard faces several obstacles because of his family, and despite his father’s naysaying, he does make it to the top and had a long career with the company. Whether we believe Richard’s version or not, Longoria’s film entertains and offers hope to the little guy who wants to rise, and that’s what this film genre does best. Inspire! I am placing four stars up top for this one and look forward to seeing more from Longoria.