What's happened around here? I'm gone for a month, the chef dies, the restaurant is bankrupt, your ex-boyfriend is now engaged to my daughter, and I find you in bed with the gringo from across the street!
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A Classy New Coming Out Film with Emphasis on the East LA Community
Fresh young talent and a healthy dollop of enthusiasm serve as the springboard of this well written (Carlos Portugal and Charo Toledo), well directed (Carlos Portugal) and well acted exuberant story of those once perceived tightly closet doors of the East Los Angeles Hispanic community. Not that this is the first film to engage the topic of being gay in East LA - QUINCEAÑERA is another superb film on the subject - but it addresses so many other aspects of family and social life happening now that it deserves a wide audience. With a cast of newcomers coupled with some very fine veterans of the screen EAST SIDE STORY comes to life in a highly entertaining fashion.
Closeted schooled chef Diego Campos (a fine debut by René Alvarado) works as a waiter in his grandmother Sara's (elegant Irene DeBari) little Mexican restaurant where grumpy homophobic chef Don Rogelio (Luis Accinelli) presides in the kitchen. Diego dreams of opening his own restaurant but family ties keep him grounded. Diego's campy Aunt Bianca (Gladise Jimenez) returns from Monaco on one of her many expensive sojourns to find a man and changes begin to happen. Diego's equally closeted boyfriend Pablo Morales (David Berón) has been refusing to settle down in a relationship with Diego, claiming that the union is a 'passing fancy'. When Bianca enters, Pablo's attentions turn to the sexy lady and Diego is brokenhearted.
Into this mélange enters a white gay couple who buy a 'flip' house across the street, a signal to the neighborhood that gentrification is just around the corner. The couple - Wesley (Steve Callahan) and Jonathan (Cory Schneider) - meet the morose Diego and a match strikes between Diego and Wesley. Jonathan is assigned all the lines having to do with prejudice and is the one who wants out of the neighborhood as soon as their house is enhanced and their gay friends begin to visit. The white couple move apart and Wesley and Diego begin a courtship dance that is encouraged by Diego's family. How Diego handles his loss of Pablo to his Aunt Bianca and copes with the possibility of being open with Wesley forms the story line. It is all the hilarious and not so hilarious sidebars that share the space of the 'outing' that make the film so personal and successful.
Carlos Portugal is clearly a talent to watch, as are his attractive and talented cast members. EAST SIDE STORY is a fine companion piece to QUINCEAÑERA and should enjoy the same degree of popularity for all the same reasons! Grady Harp
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