JWR Articles: Film/DVD - East Side Story (Director: Carlos Portugal) - January 15, 2007
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East Side Story

3 3
88 min.

Reviewed at the 2007 Palm Springs International Film Festival
Here comes the neighbourhood

How refreshing to have a film set in the east side of Los Angeles that doesn’t end up in a bloodbath!

There is a turf war in Carlos Portugal’s début feature film as the predominantly Latino neighbourhood sees an influx of queer whitebread snatch up the real estate and move in with their adopted Asian children. Family values are at the centre of the action as up-and-coming chef Diego (René Alvarado charms with every dish) works through the trauma of his realtor fuck-buddy Pablo (David Berón with a convincing sense of denial; their role-playing BJ scenes are deliciously fun), who, once his best “friend” is outed, opts to turn straight to save his reputation.

Portugal and Charo Toledo’s slight script overflows with textbook twists but has enough genuinely funny moments to forgive the narrative lapses. Ironically, Pablo’s new beard (aha!) is also the fornicating gourmet’s Auntie (Bianca Campos, who devours the role with the same enthusiasm as her intended’s fully loaded “burrito” and imparts juicy bits of knowledge including the relieving fact “a four-way is not an orgy.”) even as her long-suffering mother (Irene DeBari)—a.k.a. Diego’s Grandma—watches lovingly from the sidelines, missing nothing, saying little, but adds a nice sense of dignity to balance the revenge ass-painting scene.

The plot thickens (and several other limbs) when the restauranteurs’ new queer neighbours set up house across the street. Wes (played with affable sincerity by Steve Callahan) and his trailer-trash partner Jonathan (Cory Schneider, whose Queen bitch demeanour and racist interjections draw the required laughs but dilute any potential for truly significant characterization) try fitting in but end up in temper tantrums, hissy fits and breakups as their across-the-street, but been around the block culinary school graduate’s charms are first admired then deliciously sampled.

Also livening up this relationship romp are Yelyna De Leon as the straight-laced waitress who morphs from conversion proponent to fag hag (the red boa in the “wrong” briefcase is a hoot) and a grizzled, redneck cook Don Rogelio (Luis Accinelli)—the last moment of his miserable life is a big wet one from the object of his scorn (Diego) as he performs mouth-to-mouth on the bigot of the year. This kiss of death should have brought cheers! The real smooches are tasteful and believable; we’re already a long way past Brokeback Mountain. JWR

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