“East Side Story”
A Little Bit of Everything
Culture clashes, sexuality, gentrification, and politics are the issues handled in Carlos Portugal’s new movie “East Side Story”. Add a heterosexual twist in a movie set in East Los Angeles and you have a good time.
When gay Hispanics start moving into a neighborhood that has been a traditionally Mexican enclave, you have a movie screenplay. When the new neighbors start renovating houses and adopting children from abroad, some of the neighborhood residents begin to feel challenged.
The cast is exceptional as each represents a different aspect of society and does so without appearing to be a cliché. Steve Callahan as Wesley is the center of the film. Having moved into the neighborhood, he wants to be part of it and to learn about the culture of the people. His boyfriend, Jonathon (Cory Schneider) is very funny as the jealous one who sees the house as an investment. He also is scared of his neighbors and does not want to stay in the neighborhood. Diego (Rene Alvarado), a want to be chef is torn between his higher aspirations and loyalty to his family and David Benton plays Pablo, his secret lover, is a real estate man and a weasel that is in conflict with his sexuality. He eventually proposes to Diego’s sister, Bianca (Gladys Jimenez) who has tramping her way through Europe. This is his way of hiding his homosexuality.
Surprisingly, the cost of real estate in the area begins to rise and rise and rise and people begin to move to the East Side. A new transportation system is to be put in and luxury condos are scheduled to be built. The future of East L.A. is questionable and we get a glimpse of reality of what happens when a neighborhood is gentrified.
This is quite a surprise for a low-budget film. The direction is almost perfect and the drama is touching and the humor is very, very funny. It is basically a coming-out story that doesn’t at all feel like one. It is done in a modern way as the scenes and message is loud and clear without overshadowing the personal story of Diego. It infuses humor with poignancy. The actors are good-looking, the story is compelling and the music is just wonderful. Above everything else, this movie has heart. Love, care and hope explode on the screen right next to dreams fulfilled.
“East Side Story” shows us how bias hurts and that we fear what we don’t understand and what we fear we destroy.