Luis Valdez | Critical Review by Anthony DeCurtis

This literature criticism consists of approximately 23 pages of analysis & critique of Luis Valdez.
This section contains 351 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Interview by Luis Valdez with David Savran

Critical Review by Anthony DeCurtis

SOURCE: "Flawed 'La Bamba'," in Rolling Stone, Issue 506, August 16, 1987, p. 13.

In the following film review of La Bamba, DeCurtis criticizes Valdez for artificially inflating the already powerful story of Valens's life.

A variety of problems plagues La Bamba, the new film about the life of Ritchie Valens, the Mexican American rocker who was killed at age seventeen in the 1959 plane crash that also took the lives of Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper. Casting in the major roles is the movie's most obvious problem. Newcomer Lou Diamond Phillips is likeable but far from riveting as Valens, while Danielle von Zerneck, who plays Valens's girlfriend and the inspiration for his hit "Donna," is almost laughably blank. In contrast, Rosana De Soto and Esai Morales, as Valens's mother and half brother, give performances that are operatic in their histrionic excess.

But the movie's most damning flaw is in its handling of Valens's death. Sweet Dreams, the 1985 movie about country singer Patsy Cline, who died in a plane crash at age thirty, worked because it made Cline's life seem so recognizably ordinary. When her plane slams into a mountain, it hits with all the pointless shock that violent, accidental death delivers in real life.

Writer and director Luis Valdez takes a much less effective tack in La Bamba, in which the circumstances surrounding Valens's death are laden with portentous cliches. The singer is haunted by prophetic dreams of plane crashes and reels off lines like "I'm gonna be a star, and stars don't fall from the sky, do they?"

The mystical inflation of Valens's story may be the result of the difficulties Valdez faced in dramatizing the life of someone who died as a teenager. But Valens's life hardly requires this degree of aesthetic shaping to have its impact. The child of an impoverished and broken family, Valens had already scored hits with "Donna," "La Bamba" and "Come On, Let's Go" at the time of his death and seemed poised for greater things. The loss of such a seminal figure should provide power and pathos enough for any film.

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This section contains 351 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Interview by Luis Valdez with David Savran