The Perez Family (1995) Poster

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Good Cast Helps This Pleasant Love Story (spoilers).
Pepper Anne20 May 2004
Alfred Molina and Marisa Tomei head up the cast of this pleasant romantic comedy about a former political prisoner and a former sugar cane farmer who leave Cuba for the United States in 1980 on what I presume to be the famous Marielle Boat Lift that brought Cuban exiles to the states (although the boat looks much smaller than it did in 'Before Night Falls'). Having the same last name, the man and the bouyant young woman pose as husband and wife (and later members of an extended Perez family) in order to gain a sponsor who will give them a place to stay and some kind of work.

But, Juan (Molina) is expecting to be reunited with his wife (Angelica Houston) and grown daughter (Trini Alvarado). His traitor brother-in-law, who was responsible for the twenty years he spent in that dreadful prison, comes to the dock looking for Juan, but is told by the guard that Juan and his wife already passed through. So, Angel (the brother-in-law) is under the assumption that Juan remarried and broke his sister's heart, and now he tells his sister to forget about him. Juan, in the meantime, has no idea about the misunderstanding, but longs to be reunited with his family.

However, along the way, Juan and Dorita (Marisa Tomei in a fantastic performance) build a friendship, and eventually, fall in love for each other. And his wife (Houston) similarly finds a relationship with a charming cop (Chez Palminterri). Juan and his wife, after so many years apart and finding satisfaction and closeness in relationship, they find it hard to rekindle what they once had.

It isn't that they're being disloyal to each other. Despite being married, they had been away from each for more than twenty years and could not just pick up where they left off.

It is a pleasant romantic comedy and has some very funny moments as well as an excellent cast, particularly Marisa Tomei, who pretty much drives the whole movie as the young Cuban female who tries to create a close family (with others similarly named Perez) and searching out something like an "American Dream."
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Meet The Perez
Chrysanthepop5 February 2009
Mira Nair's take on comedy is quite impressive. The director is known for her more intense and dramatic films but here she proves that she can direct a comedy. Though 'The Perez Family' isn't without its share of flaws, it is overall a funny movie with loads of laugh-out-loud moments. The film is about a group of Cuban immigrants who move to the states, one of them is in search of freedom and another in search of his family whom he hasn't seen for 20 years. While the film is essentially a comedy, Nair does tackle some issues that represent the darkness of an immigrant's life.

The score is energetic and the cinematography is vivacious. The pace tends to drag in some places and near the end becomes a tad too intense. Perhaps Nair could have balanced it off by including more comic punches. The dialogues are wonderful, especially the ones between Tomei and Molina.

Marisa Tomei has never looked hotter. She is both sensual and hilarious and very convincing as a Cuban wild flower. She was also excellent in the more intense scenes. Angelica Huston too displays a sophisticated sensuality and shows that she too can be funny on screen. Alfred Molina is good but not as effective as his leading ladies. Chazz Palminteri is charming. The late Celia Cruz makes a pleasantly awkward appearance.

'The Perez Family' is quite a charming and funny romantic comedy that gives us a glimpse of the hardships of immigrant life but also lots to laugh about. Would like to see Nair make more comedy.
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Exploits the spice of Cuba but is really just a predictable romantic comedy/drama
bob the moo28 March 2004
When President Carter declared an open door policy to anyone who wanted to escape Cuba and come to America, Castro used this to clear his jails of criminals and political prisoners. When Juan Raul Perez gets on the boat he hopes his wife will be there to meet him, as she fled to the US decades ago. When she doesn't come he ends up in the camp with everyone else, including the feisty Dorita Evita Perez. The two need a sponsor to get out of the camp and realise that things would be easier if they were a family. For that reason they pretend to be married and gradually start putting their fake family in place.

I was drawn to this film by the cast list and in fairness I should have spotted that this film about Cubans had very few Cuban or even Latino actors in it. Anyway, aside from that the plot has historical context but I am not familiar enough with it to say if it was accurate or not, although I really don't think it matters very much. The film tries to fizzle with Latin spirit while at the same time delivering a rather convoluted romantic drama of sorts. It partly works but the writing isn't great and the film failed to really engage me as it just seemed a little forced as if it had been a good idea once but had had so many knobs added to it that it got a little daffy. After an hour it settles into the formulaic mould it was in all along, the historical context forgotten and the clichés allowed to flow. If you can't see where this is going then I salute your ability to blindly accept what is given to you.

Talking of clichés, the casting of so few Hispanic/Cuban/Latino actors was a mystery to me. Surely it would have been possible to get closer than Italian, which is what quite a few of the main characters appear to be. Tomei was the name that drew me to this film but in turns her role is good and bad. She has an important role and it was necessary for her to be feisty etc but she overdoes it a little bit - hammy up her Latin cliché at the start for all she is worth; she gets better though. Molina is another strange choice but he does well in his role and carries some dignity through the film - it's not his fault that the script gets silly in trying to keep him and Huston apart. Huston is OK but her subplot seems added on to make the ending more palatable to the audience (god forbid anyone should be hurt). For this same reason, Palminteri is wasted. Cruz is good and Chowdhry is quite funny, but why Gallo even bothered is beyond me - pre-fame I suppose. SNL's Cleghorne plays a cop and, in the spirit of ethnic clichés, pushes the `oh-no-she-didn't' eye-rolling, `talk to the hand', neck moving black character for all she is worth - when she does it as a joke it is OK but here it just felt like laziness - especially for such a minor character.

Overall, any Hollywood film with Latinos/Cubans/Hispanics in it is going to force the rhythm for all it is worth and here is no different. It starts out boasting historical context and spice, falls into a rather convoluted series of plot twists that end up taking the film down a rom-com road to a solution that, although badly delivered, unthinkable and out-of-nowhere, was obvious from about 30 minutes into the film.
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Marisa Tomei is an absolute delight and the movie is good too
generic-22 October 1999
We didn't expect much from this rental that we had never heard of but ended up being delighted. Marisa Tomei was an absolute delight. Angelica Houston was different than we have ever seen her and looked very attractive. Very, very good movie with a little bit of everything you could want. Marisa Tomei was wonderful.
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I loved it!
drm_skr28 October 2006
I love this movie. I remember I was seeing a play "Ragtime" and I wondered if an immigration movie/play existed that was not incredibly depressing and then I remembered "The Perez Family".

It's like that excercise where a shrink tells the husband to pretend he's interested in sex with his wife and then it the feelings actually occur. Here they pretend to be a family to get through immigration and then they actually do begin to care for one another and be like a true family.

I also loved how it could get a little surealistic at moments. For example when they first arrive in the Oragebowl and Juan fears they're gonna be shot and then they are suddenly surrounded by a laughing crowd. Or the moment Juan sees his wife kissing the cop and as he crushes the photo we see a red stain appear over his heart. That was so subtle I only caught it with repeated vewings. The soundtrach even is simpally amazing. And yes Marisa Tomei has never been hotter! ;-)

I also loved a lot of the minor roles such as the Indian immigration official who clearly realizes what's going on and clearly doesn't care. I loved that little sarcastic eyeroll he does when he talks about, "Cowboys . . . and Indians!"

Overall it's just such a sweet heartwarming film which is such a change from the usual "the more depressing the more deep and artistic" immigration film. Sure some of it was pretty silly, coincidental, and over the top but "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" wasn't?
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An Historic Perspective
andydufresne24 February 2002
Marisa Tomei is wonderful! There is a scene it which she is kneeling down in the water just as her boat arrives at Key West which is as sexy with cloth9ing as anything nude I've ever seen. ALfred Molina is great as the confused political prisoner.

The story begins as Alfred Molina sends his family off to America during a crackdown of the Cuban Communists. The former dictator Batista was very kind to capitalists. The country appeared to flourish but there was much poverty. Fidel Castro came to power and many of his political opponents were jailed or killed.

Marisa Tomei is a young worker in the sugar cane fields. News was difficult to come by there. When she gets to the U.S. she doesn't even know that John Wayne has died. (One of her great desires is to have sex with him)

Late in his administration President Carter declared an open door policy to anyone that was able to escape Cuba. As a result, Castro cleared his jails and hospitals of many criminals and insane people. It is in the midst of THIS that Marisa and Alfred meet. He as a released political prisoner trying to find the family he'd already sent to America years earlier, she as a poor worker trying to get to a better life. In the confusion of the long line at immigration and in order to get placed with a sponsor more quickly she claims him as her husband and an old man as her father in law.

For those of us who's families have been here long enough that we don't remember immigration this movie is a great reminder of why so many people have wanted to come here over the years.

You really can't go wrong with this...I bought it on recommendation of a friend and watch it a couple of times a year. It is among my personal top 10.
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Marisa sizzles!
SanDiego16 November 2000
This excellent film came out at the same time as the similar titled "My Family." How interesting it always is when twin films come out that way. Sometimes one film is completely ignored, other times the two films split their limited audiences and neither really take off. Such as the case with these two films. Both were excellent films with similar marketing campaigns, but Marisa Tomei in "The Perez Family" is what makes this film the superior of the two. As Dottie Perez, Marisa Tomei is sizzling hot, as sexy as anything to dance across the screen in decades, and simply dissolves into her character. If Marisa Tomei won a Oscar for "My Cousin Vinny" (which she did), then her performance here, in comparison, deserves a Nobel Peace Prize! I dare any one, male or female, to watch this film and not fall instantly in love with every inch of her. Our entire family adores this film and Marisa Tomei's performance.
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Sensual, well-told story of the spirit
bharma14 January 2003
Well, most have summed up the story and acting pretty well, but I thought this was a beautiful film about indominable human spirit. As Tomei's character states in the beginning of the film, "I am like Cuba: always subjugated, but never conquered" (paraphrased).

That, for me, was the theme of the film throughout. Tomei was wonderful, but I loved the subtle work from Molina and Huston.
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love Elvis Presley, I dig the rock and roll, I want to F*CK... John Wayne
lastliberal15 May 2007
This is a cute little film starring Marisa Tomei (Wild Hogs, My Cousin Vinny) and Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2, Frida) as Cubans who came over on the Marial boat lift in the 80s.

Juan Raul Perez (Molina) is married to Carmela (Anjelica Huston), who came to America 20 years previous while Juan languished in a Cuban prison. He is stuck in an immigration facility with Dorita Evita Perez (Tomei), who is not related to him, but pretends to be his wife so they can get out. They even pick up a father and a son in their attempt at freedom.

While Juan is trying to escape and reunite with Carmela, her brother, Angel (Diego Wallraff) is trying to keep them apart. Further complicating the adventure is a cop, Lt. John Pirelli (Chazz Palminteri), who is falling in love with Carmela.

It is a sweet little comedy that Tomei does so well and worth spending some time with.
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Poor character motivation make much of this nonsensical.
don-cant3 June 2006
At first, I thought this film had some promise. It could have gone either way - a drama or a comedy. It never made up its mind. There were some genuinely funny scenes, engaging enough to assume we could smile, if not laugh out loud. But that was not to be. Acting went over the top - one actor after another striving to be a Cuban, but none succeeding. Tomei was outrageously bad - phony accent, incomprehensible mood swings. Nothing about her character was consistent. As a matter of fact, none of the characters made much sense. Poor Chazz Palmenteri (Lt. Pirelli), an actor of some substance, had no substance here - the script not allowing meaning or motivation for his character. Alfred Molina (Perez) started out as dark and brooding, his love for the beautiful Carmela (Angela Houston) ruling his every thought. Then when he finally finds her, you'd think, wow, now this guy's going to go crazy to get her (after all, it's been twenty years in prison thinking only of her). What does he do? Runs away because an alarm system went off - and stays away. Mind you, this is his great love. And Carmela. What's with her? She's been prostrate for 20 yrs. thinking only of Perez and along comes a cop (Chazz) and she's totally overwhelmed. Her brother does not seem to not want Carmela and Perez to reunite, but then, for no reason at all, when he sees Perez at a dance where Carmella is dancing happily with Chazz, he screams to Carmela something like "Look, look, it's Perez, he's here." Carmela pulls out a gun and aims it at poor Perez - she's going to shoot him! OK, so she doesn't recognize him, maybe, but why shoot the poor guy who is in no way threatening, just a sad, pleading face on the dance floor. Explain that to me. Sorry, I don't see it. If ever there was a film where character motivation was weak, indeed, absent, this is it.
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I can't believe it
renogade17 June 2016
This movie is NOT good. The plot is drawn out, followed by stupid side plots. The main characters are stupid and despicable. The drama is laughable and crow-barred in, there is no suspense and the comedy is barely actually funny. The dialogue is meh and the romance is the worst. I can not think of a worse kind of woman than Marissa Tomei's character. I just watched the whole thing because there was nothing better on. I really don't know for who this is for. It has childish humor yet dirty romance. I only liked the parts with Anjelica Huston, for those where not crap. Don't watch the movie. if you do and like it, good for you, but I did not care for it and neither did most of the box office.
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A cute fantasy of a film, Marisa and Alfred Molina star.
TxMike8 June 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Nothing else good on TV, and not feeling like going to the DVD store, we watched "Perez Family" on WE network. Molina's wife and child go to Miami by boat from Cuba, he stays behind to care for the sugar cane, lands in jail for a long time. Twenty years later he manages to leave, and on the boat meets Marisa Tomei, a sexy Cuban prostitute, who at arrival in Key West suggests they represent themselves as "Perez and Perez", a married couple. They begin a life in Miami, his real wife turns up (Angelica Huston), she has fallen for a policeman (Chaz Palminteri), meanwhile Molina and Tomei begin to appreciate each other.

In the climax, Molina and Huston meet up at a dance, 20 years after they last saw each other, they smile, are cordial, but they prefer the lives that fate has dealt them, Molina and Tomei stay together, his wife and the policeman stay together. Not heavy, a cute little romantic comedy. Marisa Tomei is so good!
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wild Tomei
SnoopyStyle3 November 2016
Sugar cane worker Dorita Evita Perez (Marisa Tomei) is looking for a brighter Hollywood life. Political prisoner Juan Raul Perez (Alfred Molina) is released with the Mariel boatlift. The two Cuban refugees of the same last name are mistakenly put together as husband and wife by Immigration officials. He has not seen his real wife Carmela Perez (Anjelica Huston) for 20 years who is in Miami with their daughter Teresa Perez (Trini Alvarado). Carmela's brother Angel Diaz comes looking for him and finds him with Dorita as his wife. Lt. John Pirelli (Chazz Palminteri) is investigating and gets close to Carmela. Dorita pushes Juan to stay together to get a sponsor. She mistakes Hollywood, Florida for Hollywood, California and is devastated when she's told that John Wayne is dead. After collecting more members, the new Perez family sets off to find their way.

Marisa Tomei is effervescent and brash. This may work better if it stayed only with her and Molina. I'm less sure about his family in America. They seem to be trying to be comedic which doesn't always work. I'm not sure about what Angel is doing. That side of the movie complicates the romance. The love story gets twisted into a pretzel. I can't help but wonder if it would be infinitely sweeter to have Juan find Teresa at the end of the movie with a daughter he never knew existed. Instead, it's all complicated by Angel and diverting romances.
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A Confusion of Styles and Intent
atlasmb3 April 2014
"The Perez Family" can't decide what it wants to be--a romance, a comedy, or a historical documentation of a period. The story comes from a novel about Cuban refugees--and maybe the novel was effective--but this rendition of the story is undermined by a confusing tone. It seems to move from tragedy to comedy to the surreal with such alacrity and little sense of purpose that the entire film feels inconsequential.

All of the actors do a fine job. But they are given a script that devalues their performances. Marisa Tomei, in particular, gives a sensual performance that is just tossed away by the schizophrenic narrative. In the end, "The Perez Family" feels populated by caricatures.

Within this film, I think there are the beginnings of a solid serious film. And a lighthearted comedy. And a sensual love story. But misdirection, bad editing and/or bad writing have mashed them all together into a lump of confusion.

I do think it is possible to blend comedy, tragedy and more in one film. For a surreal, artistic, symbolistic example (that is even a musical), see Francis Ford Coppola's "One From the Heart". When I think how well some of the "Perez" characters could fit into a story like that, it reinforces my disappointment of this film.

There are parts of this film that could be very striking if they were within a coherent story. Too bad.
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The Un-Cuban "Cuban" Film
jesussuarez71319 December 2010
This was a typical Hollywood film gone "A MUCK" portraying minorities in this country in ignorant ways as only Hollywood can. I'm just glad that some of the Latino actors and actresses got some Hollywood money out of this flick for playing the clowns that they were portrayed as. What a poorly written flick. I'm sure that the director tried to make the film seem beautiful...but UGHHH...the artistic license was just way too over the top. Another Hollywood failure that could have been Great gone bad because of hand tailoring movies to marketing for U.S. consumption....Don't waste your time watching this film unless you don't mind wasting it on useless drivel, remember it will be precious time that you will NEVER ever be able to recuperate....what a piece of Garbage. I HATE this Film. I wish you guys would allow me to vote "HATE" and "BARF"...!!!!
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Saw it on Bravo, then rented the movie
peachandrudy18 January 2001
If you appreciate the acting ability of Marissa Tomei, such as her great role in My Cousin Vinny, you will like this one. Everyone was superb, except that idiot that ran around in his birthday suit thruout the movie!
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Nice comedy about immigration with a sensual Marisa Tomei
neverafrown15 May 2010
Warning: Spoilers
The first scene, composed of three tracking shots, and showing happy pre-Castro Cuban beach-goers is pleasant and appealing. A political prisoner (Juan Raoul Perez) flees to the US looking for his wife (Carmela)and his daughter (Teresa) he hasn't seen for 20 years. On the boat and in the fugitives' camp he gets to know a girl (Dorita Evita Perez) with whom he starts a fake family to speed up the immigration procedure. By the time he manages to meet with his wife Carmela he has already fallen in love with Dorita, and Carmela with a policeman. Happy Ending. Dorita is an exuberant, sensual and sweet character. Juan well represents the estrangement of a prisoner and immigrant ( in a way, he recalls the Castaway of "L'invenzione di Morel"). The movie is worth seeing for few good scenes (like the one where Dorita learns that John Wayne is dead and starts crying), Marisa Tomei's beauty, and some Cuban music.
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A movie to die for!!!
Guy14314 May 1999
I can't begin to describe the truly exotic and sensual feeling behind "The Perez Family." The direction was at it's best starring top stars like Marisa Tomei, Angelica Huston, & Alfred Molina, and a great supporting cast including Chazz Palminteri, Trini Alvarado, & Celia Cruz.

It's the story on a family trying to move to the land of the free, America, in the 1980's. But upon departing, the father is arrested and must let the family go. Years later when he is released, he climbs on board and heads to the U.S. hoping to find his family. On the way there he meets a sexy woman that slowly changes his life. Upon arrival in the states, Miami seems to be a much bigger place than he imagined and hopes of finding his family seems a lot harder than expected. It's romantic, sensual, and funny & if you believe in fairy tales, this movie is made for you. Go ask your local video store if they carry it and if its in there, get it! You're going to love it, trust me!
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rsd2228 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I love Marisa Tomei's acting ability and expected a lot from this movie because of her. She is, in fact, the unchallenged star, and the film is clearly a must-see for her fans. However, I didn't think the story itself worked as a romantic comedy - - there's a child murdered as a plot point, for heaven's sake! It could have worked as serious drama, and occasionally drifted in that direction, but 'drift' is the operative word here. Even some of the attempts at comic elements, such as the naked 'father-in-law', the paranoid brother-in-law, and the ironic by-play between the federal agent and the police woman seemed forced and contrived. And the romantic tension between Angelica Huston and Chaz Palminteri is non-existent, although we are supposed to believe it overcomes the love she has maintained for 20 years for the husband left behind in Cuba - and now restored to her. Watch this film for a great Marisa Tomei performance, but don't expect much more.
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