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‘I Like It Like That’

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
October 14, 1994


Darnell Martin
Lauren Velez;
Jon Seda;
Griffin Dunne;
Rita Moreno;
Jesse Borrego;
Thomas Melly;
Lisa Vidal
profanity and sexually explicit scenes

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Coming-of-age movies usually focus on teenage boys and now and then a lovesick tomboy, but rarely on a mother of three. That's only one reason to welcome debuting filmmaker Darnell Martin's "I Like It Like That," a warm, vivid portrait of a young barrio housewife who must give up her traditional role to support the kids when her husband goes to jail.

Martin, a former resident of the film's Bronx neighborhood, has a feel for the rhythms of the barrio, and its community serves as both the story's Greek chorus and the young couple's extended family. A street-smart comedy with just a hint of Spike Lee's "Crooklyn," Martin's movie offers an honest, often touching look at kids raising kids.

Lisette and Chino Linares (Lauren Velez and Jon Seda) aren't old enough to have found out who they are or what they can achieve, but they are already parents to three little ones. It's obvious not only that the Linareses love their kids to pieces, but also that when it comes to rearing them, they're definitely not the Huxtables.

Lisette stays home with the kids, while Chino, a bicycle messenger, struggles to support the family. After the kids break the stereo, Chino impulsively steals one to replace it and winds up in jail. Though her husband forbids it, Lisette borrows her transsexual brother's falsies and sashays into a job as an assistant to a recording company executive (Griffin Dunne).

Unfortunately, her success scandalizes Chino's imperious mother (Rita Moreno); it also threatens Chino by opening a door to a romantic rival. Though the Linareses survived all Chino's failures, Lisette's good fortune promises to destroy the family unless the five of them find new roles.

Drugs, unemployment and other realities of the inner city touch on the Linareses' lives, but the writer-director counters these with the vibrancy of the multicultural community where even Lisette's brother (Jesse Borrego) is accepted despite his Chiquita Banana wardrobe.

Borrego and Tomas "Tommy" Melly, the 10-year-old who plays the Linareses' oldest, are standouts in the supporting cast, along with Lisa Vidal as a neighborhood tart. As for the film's stars, the spunky Velez is something of a Latino Mary Tyler Moore, and Seda adds a touching, funny counterpoint as a young man who learns what it means to be a father and a husband.

"I Like It Like That," the first major studio film by an African American woman, transcends anything so superficial as race. It's about kindness, and I like that.

"I Like It Like That" is rated R for profanity and sexually explicit scenes.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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