January 13, 2020  (Web Review)

Papi Chulo

Breaking Glass, 98 min., R, DVD: $24.99, Nov. 5

Reviewer rating: 2.0/4

Writer-director John Butler explores the serious subject of grief while also touching upon issues of class and cultural difference in modern America in a quirkily whimsical way. But while undoubtedly heartfelt, Papi Chulo is a woefully misguided comedy-drama that is weighed down by an overwrought lead performance. Matt Bomer is Sean, a gay weatherman on a Los Angeles TV station who has an on-air breakdown and is ordered to take time off to deal with emotional scars caused by the absence of his long-time lover. Sean hires Ernesto (Alejandro Patiño), a chubby Mexican dayworker who speaks little English, to do some repairs on the house they shared, but then puts the job on hold while developing a friendship with the incredulous man—who has a loving wife and family. The bond extends Ernesto’s stay indefinitely, eliciting mirthful comments from his fellow workers and an assumption on the part of Sean’s friends that the men are a couple. Sean’s increasing neediness finally leads Ernesto to quit, sending Sean into an emotional tailspin in which he goes searching for Ernesto—a rash decision that turns into a gigantic embarrassment. Papi Chulo means well, but it miscalculates badly by using Ernesto and his fellow Latinos as props in the story of a white man’s salvation. Moreover, Bomer comes on so strongly that he emerges as a prissy stereotype who never convinces viewers of his character’s supposed depths of feeling. Not a necessary purchase. (F. Swietek)