El Cantante Review - Marc Anthony re-incarnates ‘The Voice’

Husband and wife glitterati team Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez bring to the screen on of salsa’s music legendary balladeers Héctor Lavoe in “El Cantante” (Picturehouse). Héctor Lavoe was to salsa what Marvin Gaye was to R&B. Both crooners had easily recognizable voices and a certain swagger that separated them from the rest. Lopez’s production company Nyuorican produced the biopic written and directed by Leon Ichaso (Piñero). The story is told from the perspective of Lavoe’s wife Nilda Georgina Rosada. Nicknamed Puchi, she takes the audience through the passionate and tumultuous relationship she had with Lavoe, real name Héctor Juan Pérez Martínez.

Real life husband and wife team Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez play volatile couple Puchi and Hector Lavoe

They were the volatile Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner of their time—lots of yelling, shouting, objects thrown at each other, and no doubt, explosive make up sex. Puchi was tough. She loved her man but wasn’t afraid to be confrontational when it was needed. One scene in particular shows her gangsta side. She enters a crack house, on the seedy side of New York dressed in a form fitting dress stomps up the stairs in 4-inch heels. She finds Héctor strung out from shooting up heroin. She takes him out, fixes him up in the limosine and gets him ready to perform for a gig that night.

Marc Anthony as salsa singer Hector Lavoe

The story begins in Lavoe’s humble beginnings in Pónce, Puerto Rico. After his father disowns him, he moved to New York’s Spanish Harlem in 1963 and quickly became known for his singing. From there, it’s a never-ending roller coaster ride of infidelities and drug use (on both parts), missed shows and many  reconciliations. Ichaso provides a fantastic musical journey about the formation of Fania Records, the Latin music version of Motown.

Lavoe was on the same label as Celia Cruz, Johnny Pacheco and Willie Colón. The label gave birth to Fania All-Stars, the original Latin explosion. The music was hot, the rhythms were fast and sensuous and Lavoe’s voice ignited the blast. After too many missed dates (Lavoe was notorious for making up wild excuses for being late) Colón ended their lucrative partnership. With Puchi’s encouragement he went solo and saw that he didn’t need Colón to succeed. As talented as Lavoe was, he faced demons like many creative artists. He suffered from depression, alleged suicide attempts and dove deeper into drugs. He died in 1993 at 46-years old from complications of AIDS from sharing needles.

Former flygirl turned actress, singer and entrepreneur Jennifer Lopez as Lavoe's shrewd and seductive wife Puchi

Puchi knew her husband better than himself. In the movie, she reveals that no matter how successful Héctor became he was still empty inside. After 20 years of being together, she’s more than qualified to talk about him.

Lopez is unrecognizable as the chain-smoking, hard ass Puchi, who knew her husband better than he knew himself. In the movie, she reveals that no matter how successful Lavoe became, he was still empty inside.  She would help Lavoe get sober but at the same time indulge in cocaine, her drug of choice, making his recovery impossible. She was unbelievably blunt, sometimes rude and uses many expletives as part of her vocabulary. It was great! This is not Jenny from the Block.

Two-time Grammy Award winner Marc Anthony channels Puerto-Rican singer and idol Hector Lavoe

Marc Anthony embodied Lavoe. The clothes, the mannerisms, even Lavoe’s distinctive voice. Place a picture of Anthony and Lavoe side by side and it looks like the same person. Marc Anthony evolves from a shy clean-cut country boy from Puerto Rico, to a tough and self-destructive idol. This is the singer’s first leading role and he owns it. Together the couple created an indescribable magic reminiscent of Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett in 1993 “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” Lopez’s and Marc Anthony’s performances are worthy of the Oscar. They morph into their characters, revealing the love and the ugliness but importantly, showed their humanity as well.

Photos courtesy by Picturehouse

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