Luminarias

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Luminarias

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Luminarias

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The makers of Luminarias, a shrill and clunky ensemble piece about single Latinas in Los Angeles, hasten to point out that their project existed as a stage play well before the similar Waiting To Exhale made it to the screen. Putting aside the fact that earlier still, Waiting To Exhale existed as a best-selling "book" (n. a number of printed pages fastened or bound together in a volume), its toxic mix of identity politics, soft-filter romance, and head-bobbing sass is hardly a formula worth emulating. While it's a shame that Latino issues are so rarely addressed in American films, writer and star Evelina Fernández seems overanxious to make up for lost time, choking the dialogue with enough facile ideas to fill a season's worth of daytime talk shows. The title refers to a nightclub where four friends gather to grouse about their love lives—like Exhale, the women can only define themselves in relation to men—and fire off crude zingers, most of them about the size, function, and hoped-for disappearance of the male unit. When not together, each is saddled with an ironic subplot: Fernández, a fiercely race-conscious professional, falls for Jewish divorce lawyer Scott Bakula; Marta DuBois, a therapist attracted to wealthy white men, is seduced by a poor Mexican waiter; Angela Moya, a painter who usually ends up with "wetbacks" without green cards, romances a Korean businessman; and Dyana Ortelli, a perky nymphet, tries to go celibate for Lent. Cheech Marin shows up for a hilarious cameo, notable for being the film's only moment that doesn't seem scripted. But the rest of the time, Luminarias is loud and painfully schematic, an amplifier for half-baked messages about racial identity and female empowerment. It's more than a little disingenuous for the filmmakers to deny comparisons to Waiting To Exhale, and those standards were pretty meager to begin with.

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