Piņero (2001) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

When I started to watch this movie, I didn't know anything about the "NuyoRican" poet/playwright, Miguel Piņero.

I have now watched the movie and I still don't know anything about him except:

  • He was a likeable, manipulative, con artist who was a master at pushing everybody's correct buttons and playing everyone like instruments.
  • He liked to pose as a threatening street thug, but was actually a gentle puppy dog with a pretty good non-threatening sense of humor.
  • It seems like he rarely slept with his girlfriend.
  • He took a lot of drugs, and that probably explains why his girlfriend rarely got laid.
  • He also had sexual feelings for men, which also seems to have affected the girlfriend's love life.
  • He had some successful plays, won some Tony awards. I think one of the plays was about his time in jail.
  • His poetry was kind of an early version of rap, and the film shows people reciting it accompanied by Latin rhythms.
  • He died of a liver disease.
I think Piņero's spirit is in the film somewhere. It's probably a lot like a film that Piņero would have made himself, or like a film of him reading his poetry. It is free-form, jumping from time to time. It never stays with anything long enough for us to get a good grasp of what it wants to say. It is unfocused. It used rhythmic and photographic devices for no reason other than to create a unique look and sound (for example, it switches from color to B&W with no special logic). It uses digital video to give it a grainy hand-held look of immediacy, as if it were a live web-cam. Benjamin Bratt plays the role like a street con artist with an especially creative gift for blarney, flattery, and humor.


there is miscellanous topless nudity from strippers and hookers.
As the man himself seems to have done, this impressionistic butterfly of a movie flutters back and forth between arty self-consciousness and jivey street-rap, maintaining an episodic aloofness from structure, alighting only briefly here and there to mark one of the milestones of Piņero's life. And death.

It reminded me of those beatnik movies from the New York underground film scene in the mid sixties. Maybe that was the feeling it meant to convey. I didn't much care for that whole film movement, and I guess I still don't. Can there be a good movie with bongo drums?

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Theatrical trailer(s)

  • Color and B&W shot on the cheap on digital video

  • "A Look at Miguel Piņero The Man"

  • Widescreen anamorphic format, 1.85

I liked Bratt, and I liked the character, but when it was over, I thought to myself, "Why did they make that film?". I still haven't been able to answer that question to myself. I have some impressions of Piņero, but I don't know why people thought he had talent. I don't know why some people even thought he was "great". I don't feel that I know him. He's just a guy I saw performing on the street.

I get the feeling that one could make a great movie about Piņero, starring Benjamin Bratt, who seemed to slide beautifully into the part.

Regrettably, this isn't it. 

The Critics Vote

  • filmcritic.com 3/5

The People Vote ...

  • with their dollars: virtually nothing. Arthouse distribution (21 screens), resulting in a domestic gross around $300,000.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C-.

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