Stream It or Skip It?
Seneca debuted ultimately 12 months’s HBO New York Latino Movie Competition, and is now out there on the platform’s streaming providers. It’s an earnest drama a few Puerto Rican-born actor residing in New York Metropolis and experiencing a disaster so troublesome to outline, it goes from private to outright existential.
‘SENECA’: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: David Seneca (Armando Riesco) can’t pry himself away from the information. It’s 2017, and Puerto Rico is devastated by Hurricane Maria. He grew up there, and nonetheless owns his father’s home in San Juan, however only some distant cousins nonetheless reside on the island. His obsession with the media protection jibes all too nicely together with his relative inactivity — he’s a profession actor with considerably extra free time than gigs. And he can’t keep away from the subject; every time individuals he meets study that he’s Puerto Rican regardless of his mild pores and skin and lack of a Spanish accent, they are saying, “It’s so unhappy what occurred” or make a Trump-throwing-paper-towels joke.
From the appears of issues, David is in his early 40s, and the sirens warning of a midlife disaster blare loudly: He and his spouse Bianca (Susan Misner) are experiencing a profound disconnect. She helps their life in a pleasant condo with their six-year-old daughter Annette (Claudia Morcate-Martin). His 20-something buddy/protege Pedro (Moises Acevedo) lands a major Broadway gig and makes skilled connections for David, who by no means follows up. David takes some business voiceover work and provides personal diction classes to individuals with overseas accents. And an previous buddy and mentor, Father Ruben (Tony Plana), goes by way of most cancers therapy in Puerto Rico, however David by no means reaches out to see how he’s doing.
David simply retains kicking cans down the street: He’ll pursue that job lead, he’ll name Ruben, he’ll go to Puerto Rico and assess the injury to the home his father left him. However he by no means does something. No matter is occurring, he can’t pinpoint. Pedro invitations him to a celebration to satisfy a Broadway director, and David, feeling like an outsider, steps into the lavatory and has a panic assault. His anger boils over when a racist creep tells David to make the bilingual Annette converse English — so he clobbers the man in a restaurant and turns into the unwitting star of a viral video. One thing has to present.
What Films Will It Remind You Of?: The showbiz-insider stuff brings to thoughts Pamela Adlon’s extraordinary collection Higher Issues and Lake Bell’s movie-trailer-voiceover comedy In a World, with a slight pinch of the immigrant drama A Higher Life.
Efficiency Price Watching: Plana, who enjoys a terrific third-act scene that’s terrifically naturalistic in its drama, is the film’s secret weapon.
Memorable Dialogue: An trade veteran tells David that he wished him for a TV collection, however the function went to a reputation actor as an alternative. “Would you hurry up and develop into a f—in’ identify?” he jokes — though David clearly doesn’t suppose it’s a lot of a joke.
Intercourse and Pores and skin: None.
Our Take: However that’s not all: David’s daughter is afraid of him after the violent coffeeshop incident, his marriage is kaput, his skilled jealousy boils over with Pedro and when he lastly will get a good break with a online game voice gig, he’s requested to do a racist caricature of a Latino gangster. He strikes right into a cruddy little condo, takes up meditation and train, pares his life actually down to reveal partitions and makes buddies with the only mother Camila (Shirley Rumierk) who lives upstairs.
The movie steadily cuts again to a dialog David had with Ruben, simply earlier than he left Puerto Rico for New York, and clearly, this was a profound relationship for our protagonist. However what director Jason Chaet — who co-writes with Armando Riesco — doesn’t clarify is how this factor of David’s persona ties into his disaster of id. David had points together with his father, who thought performing was “for gays and communists”; David struggles with fatherhood are innately tied to his simultaneous satisfaction and disgrace for his violent outburst in opposition to a racist man; David struggles with being a mentor for Pedro. David is Puerto Rican, however he doesn’t look Puerto Rican. Who’s David, precisely?
Like life, Seneca doesn’t supply any simple solutions. However the hurricane of id points the film inflicts on David doesn’t at all times really feel sufficient like life to be greater than only a stable drama rooted in thought-provoking realities. The character’s exasperation with Trump-era social politics could possibly be a film in itself — one which I feel many people would discover painfully related — however it’s simply one other beat or two in an overstuffed screenplay. (And admittedly, the “Kitty Metropolis” that Camila’s daughter builds as an arts-and-crafts reflection of New York is the overly cutesy stuff of overly twee indie dramedies; in fact, she helps David construct his personal quasi-therapeutic shoebox dioramas.) All this provides as much as a stage of calculation that lessens Seneca’s skill to land a extra direct emotional punch.
Our Name: STREAM IT. Regardless of its flaws, Seneca is a well-meaning story of a contemporary Latino-American man’s wrestle to outline himself.
John Serba is a contract author and movie critic primarily based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Learn extra of his work at johnserbaatlarge.com or observe him on Twitter: @johnserba.
Stream Seneca on HBO Max