Eva Longoria – director of ‘Flamin’ Hot’ (Courtesy Photo)

In the inspiring comedy-drama “Flamin’ Hot,” directed by the talented Eva Longoria, the proud tradition of Mexicans sticking together in the U.S. takes center stage.

Richard Montañez, portrayed by Jesse Garcia, questions his own initiative as he considers applying for a job at the Frito-Lay facility in Rancho Cucamonga, California.

Despite his initial confusion about the word “initiative,” Montañez ultimately embodies it, going from a janitor to a family man who introduces a groundbreaking Cheetos flavor, elevating both his career in marketing and the reach of the snack maker.

Garcia and Annie Gonzalez, who plays Montañez’s wife Judy, deliver poignant performances as a couple facing economic struggles. They form a connection during their childhood, both experiencing the challenges of being Brown children in a predominantly White elementary school. Montañez’s upbringing is narrated with a mix of pride, self-deprecation, and unwavering optimism, softening the harsh realities of routine bigotry, racism, and even cruelty from his father, Vacho, portrayed by Emilio Rivera.

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While Montañez grew up during the late 1960s and early 1970s, the focus of his upbringing wasn’t centered on the pride and resistance of the Chicano Movement. Instead, as he recounts in a narrative that seamlessly moves between the present and the past, from real-life events to imaginative storytelling, Montañez found solace in a gang. However, when Judy becomes pregnant, the couple realizes the need for change.

Upon entering the Frito-Lay facility, Montañez becomes an insatiable learner, eagerly posing questions about chemical processes, exhibiting curiosity regarding an extruder, and even deriving joy from operating an industrial power washer. His inquisitive nature irritates his supervisor (Matt Walsh), raises concerns for his friend who assisted him in securing the job (Bobby Soto), and ultimately breaks down the defenses of an experienced engineer (Dennis Haysbert) who assumes the role of Montañez’s skeptical mentor.

This character holds great significance, contributing to a broader theme that permeates “Flamin’ Hot” – the power of unity and solidarity within the Black and Brown communities. Throughout Montañez’s journey, it is this seasoned engineer who not only alters the trajectory of his life within the plant but also propels his career forward. The character serves as a symbolic representation of the convergence between these communities, emphasizing their interconnectedness and collective strength.

Actors Jesse Garcia, left, and Dennis Haysbert. (Courtesy photo)

As Montañez embarks on his journey at the Frito-Lay facility, it is through the guidance of Haysbert’s character that the rich cultural experiences and resilience of both the Mexican and African American communities intersect. The mentorship dynamic between Montañez and the African American engineer signifies the strength that emerges when diverse communities come together, supporting and inspiring each other towards shared goals.

The creation of the titular flavor, Flamin’ Hot, was not an overnight success. Montañez’s journey begins in the mid-1970s and gains momentum in the early 1990s when the Frito-Lay facility faces challenging times. Executive Roger Enrico, played by Tony Shalhoub, urges the struggling workforce to “think like a CEO.”

The subsequent scenes of Montañez developing his revolutionary idea, inspired by the traditional Mexican street corn known as “elote,” exude charm and warmth. As the Montañez family samples the seasonings, even the youngest member exclaims, “It burns good.”

Longoria, in her feature directing debut, skillfully weaves messages of self-esteem throughout the film, thanks to the screenplay by Lewis Colick and Linda Yvette Chávez. The female characters, including Montañez’s mother and Judy, are more than mere catalysts in the story.

“Flamin’ Hot” is rated PG-13 for some strong language and drug references, with a runtime of 1 hour and 39 minutes. Check it out on Disney+ and Hulu.