If you can dream it, you can do it. This is the feel good message of Flamin’ Hot, that marks Eva Longoria’s directorial debut and brings to the screen the story of a man who went from being a janitor to Director of Multicultural Marketing in a multinational company.
Richard Montañez (Jesse Garcia), after a wild job hunt, finally lands a position as janitor at Frito-Lay, but his aspirations are greater than that. He might not have finished school, but as he jokes, he has a PHD: he is Poor, Hungry, Determined. Richard wants to learn more and befriends Clarence C. Baker (Dennis Haysbert), the best machinist at the factory, despite he’s been warned not to break rank. Even his domineering father, Vacho Montañez (Emilio Rivera), has little respect for him. The only partner-in-crime Richard can always rely upon is his wife Judy (Annie Gonzalez), who struggles raising their sons but never stops believing in her husband’s potential.
Also thanks to her support, Richard finds the courage to reach out to the CEO of Frito-Lay, Roger Enrico (Tony Shalhoub), to pitch him a revolutionary idea that will expand their sales in a time of crisis. The company has been ignoring the Latino market, which could provide an incredible boost to the business. This is why Richard comes up with a recipe, where he instills in the popular crisps the same spices and ingredients he grew up eating. This is how the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos are born. But the deliciousness of the snack does not make the journey to success easier. A few more hurdles need to be overcome, because the product isn’t getting the rightful exposure. Richard, once again, takes matters into his hands and leads his plight to a well-deserved happy ending.
The film that will be available on Disney+ and Hulu and premiered at SXSW, is written by Lewis Colick and Linda Yvette, who based their script on the memoir A Boy, a Burrito and a Cookie: From Janitor to Executive. As expressed in the book, the real Richard Montañez and his wife affirmed they used their Mexican heritage and his craftsmanship to create the famous Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. However, in 2019 the very Frito-Lay — after an internal investigation — informed Franklin Entertainment that they disputed Montañez’s claim. Nevertheless, the producers of the movie decided to continue with the premise of the film, that epitomises the American Dream of a man who goes from rags to riches thanks to his visionary idea and perseverance in pursuing it.
Flamin’ Hot, spans through all the possible moods a film can trigger. The biopic is moving, amusing and even suspenseful. The narrative is predictable and yet indispensable to reiterate the importance of diversity and inclusion. Little does it matter whether in the real world Richard and Judy Montañez invented the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos or not. If the arts have the ability of being world shapers, viewers must be able to leave the screening of the film believing in their own power of transformation, for their lives and for those of others. Richard’s mission is not only to gain a better position in life and save the jobs of his colleagues, he is battling for representation. As he proclaims at one point “People are looking for themselves in those shelves, they want to matter,” and he succeeds in giving recognition to the Hispanic market on a global scale.
Final Grade: B