Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony sing a familiar tune

El Cantante

on August 03, 2007 by Annlee Ellingson
Taking a stab behind the camera, Jennifer Lopez produces as well as stars in this earnest biopic of Hector Lavoe, aka “The Voice” (husband Marc Anthony), shepherding the story of the salsa pioneer from development to the big screen. Desperate to sing, Hector moves against his father's wishes from Puerto Rico to New York City, where his innocence is destroyed and his passion ignited both by the love of his life, Puchi (Lopez). But, like so many of the insanely talented and popular before and since him, personal demons and the allure of drugs prove even more powerful than Puchi.

And powerful she is—too much so. Although the film centers on Hector, and Anthony certainly can sing, natch, Lopez is the star onscreen, overtaking the story. The film starts with her with a documentary-style black-and-white interview, ostensibly recorded in 2002, in the first of a couple of false starts. We next cut to 1985 on the eve of a gig at Madison Square Garden, the height of Hector's popularity and the low of his personal and relational health, shot in grainy, desaturated '80s-esque video.

It's only then that we go all the way back to the beginning—1963 Puerto Rico—experiencing his rise from immigrant nobody to international superstar with aged-by-makeup Puchi's occasional mock-doc reminisces interspersed amid the narrative along the way. Helmed by Pinero 's Leon Ichaso, the structure of the film only continues to confuse by periodically going back to Puerto Rico in scenes identifiable solely by their mise-en-scene, with little explanation as to when or why Hector and his family returned.

Still, although it sings a familiar tune, El Cantante is stylistically engaging, in the creative use of subtitles for example, and musically entrancing—and so appealing for fans of the couple and the music alike.
Distributor: Picturehouse
Cast: Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony
Director: Leon Ichaso
Screenwriters: Leon Ichaso and David Darmstaeder & Todd Anthony Bello
Producers: Julio Caro, Simon Fields, Jennifer Lopez and David Maldonado
Genre: Biopic
Rating: R for drug use, pervasive language and some sexuality
Running time: 114 min.
Release date: August 1, 2007
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