|Michael Pena as Cesar Chavez|
With a worthy, well-acted story, "Cesar Chavez" still fails to connect
You'd be hard pressed to find a more worthy film subject than Mexican-American civil right leader Cesar Chavez, who championed the cause of the migrant worker in California. However, he is deserving of a better effort than the new drama "Cesar Chavez," a well-acted but scattered and unsatisfying tale that barely scratches the surface of Chavez's many accomplishments. The film follows Chávez's (Michael Pena) efforts to organize 50,000 farm workers in California, many of them temporary workers from Mexico With poor working conditions for the workers, who also suffer from racism and brutality at the hands of the employers and local Californians, Chavez forms a union for the workers to get better wages, at the risk of his own life and health. Directed by actor Diego Luna ("The Terminal") in his English-feature directing debut, "Cesar Chavez" is an uneven, somewhat incoherent look at Chavez's struggles to organize a more perfect union for the migrant workers in California. It goes in too many directions, a little here on family, a little here on the unions, a little on his personal life, though it's not revelatory into any new details into Chavez's life. Pena is an affecting Chavez and he gives a strong performance amongst a talented cast that includes America Ferrera, Rosario Dawson and John Malkovich as one of the evil winery owners. "Chavez" is most successful when it's focused in the area of the organization of the unions, though it falters under the flat direction of an inexperienced director such as Luna. "Chavez" has a handful of inspiring moments thanks to Pena's believable performance, but in the end it comes up unsatisfying, lacking power and relevance that could've been better served by a tighter script and a more focused direction. The story of "Cesar Chavez" is a worthy one, but it needs a better film effort than this.
Wes's Grade: C