GLASGOW FILM FESTIVAL 2019: Papi Chulo
Swift in our swipes, whether it be left or right. Who can we message who is close by that remotely appeals? ‘Thirst following’ in the middle of the night, when we’re perhaps to pardon the pun, not thinking straight.
As a gay man myself, these lonely ruts can truly take a hold. Terrified of opening up too much, in the fear you will bore the person opposite you rigid. Only to retreat into your work. A practical mindset you may feel protected by, but ultimately the emotions that come with a distinct lack of personal progression and human interaction, become etched across your face.
His previous film Handsome Devil, I guess it’s only fitting director John Butler found a Hollywood heartthrob that fits that bill here in Matt Bomer, in this gloriously uplifting story that finds sweet harmony through the most unlikely friendship. Bomer plays Los Angeles weatherman Sean who may employ a sunny disposition and a smile in front of the cameras, but the rain is beating down in his heart as he struggles to rally after a break-up.
On the brink of a breakdown and eager to remove the materialistic reminders of his ex from his swanky home, he enlists help in the form of Latino migrant worker Ernesto (Alejandro Patino), who isn’t a far cry from his former partner in the looks department. Away from his own wife and family. They may find common ground in their loneliness, but it’s in their obliviousness to their respective lifestyles that fuel much of the film’s unrelenting charm. Cue boat rides, hill hiking and a crowd-pleasing singalong to a Madonna classic. Let’s just say my love for the scene is well over the Borderline…
At a time where the mere talk of a wall is enough to rile both Mexico and America. Director John Butler is shrewd in his breaking down of various barriers through his intelligible script. Whilst Papi Chulo is admittedly broad in its comedy that specialises in the awkward, it frequently tickles the funny bone and yet it’s Butler’s finding of a common ground within the film’s delectable dynamic that is truly impressive.
Undercutting the celebrity and clear wealth of Sean, allowing the personal scars to take centre stage. Amplifying the sheer decency and empathy of Ernesto, a character devoid of abrupt judgments. Together they are eager in subverting the ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ stereotypes perpetuated, subtly driving home their own insecurities and weightier issues such as immigration, without a slither of melodrama or preachiness.
Butler only enhances the grounded and graceful feel to proceedings with his incandescent direction. Dialling down the Hollywood glitz associated with Los Angeles. He romanticises the chosen setting in a somewhat reflective fashion through its sun-kissed aerial and mid-shots, simultaneously accentuating the vastness of its land to epitomise how isolating it can be, whilst amplifying the tight-knit beauty of its relationship.
Encouraged to talk about his feelings in a manner that begins clumsily. The emotional growth of Sean across the film is so endearing, displaying a level of vulnerability in his erratic decision making (one panic-stricken hook-up particularly affecting) that completely disarms you as a viewer. Armed with well-trained comedic muscles that only increases your engagement, Matt Bomer is just wonderful here. He has a superb sparring partner in Alejandro Patino’s Ernesto who is quite the revelation, who wrings out every belly laugh he can muster through his deadpan wit, taking every potentially disastrous scenario in his stride.
Sharp insight in its clash of cultures. Brimming with laugh-out-loud observational comedy. John Butler’s Papi Chulo is an utter delight.
To channel J-Lo. I Luh Ya Papi.
Directed by: John Butler
Cast: Matt Bomer, Alejandro Patiño, Elena Campbell-Martinez