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Nothing Just like the Holidays Nonetheless Resonates With Latinxs

“Nothing Just like the Holidays” has change into the definitive Latinx Christmas film. The 2008 movie includes a stellar lineup of our stars — John Leguizamo because the striving son, Luis Guzmán because the obnoxious cousin, Freddy Rodriguez because the returning brother, Melonie Diaz because the one who received away, the late nice Elizabeth Peña because the long-suffering mom, and extra. It is non-Latinx expertise contains Debra Messing as a part of a cross-cultural marriage and Alfred Molina (who’s of Spanish and Italian descent) because the household’s patriarch.

Watching it greater than a decade after its launch, “Nothing Just like the Holidays” nonetheless holds up. The plot works, hitting the proper emotional notes, whereas additionally protecting the viewers guessing. The performances sing with actual chemistry, mischief, and frustration. However why the movie stays so related is in the way it depicts the Latinx household at its heart, utilizing the Rodriguezes to get one thing proper about la cultura.

“Each character that is in there, I do know that individual. I may relate. I’ve an uncle like that, received a pal like that, a sister, a cousin,” David Rivera tells POPSUGAR. He is the founding father of Puerto Rican Flags Up, a community-based group connecting Boricuas within the diaspora to their roots. He is an enormous fan of “Nothing Just like the Holidays,” sharing that he has watched it greater than 20 occasions since its launch and nonetheless connects to it each time.

“[‘Nothing Like the Holidays’] is a mirrored image of our folks — Puerto Rican. And never [those] on the island, [but] those which are right here,” Rivera explains. “[It] was the primary time that I’ve ever seen a movie that actually identifies with our lives, our day-to-day lives. Often, we’ll watch a movie and the character is Puerto Rican — he is a drug seller or drug addict, a thief, a prison, or a womanizer. All of us have that, each race has these.” However by centering a striving Puerto Rican household and celebrating all of its members, “Nothing Just like the Holidays” paints a special image. It exhibits Boricuas in any respect ranges of financial success with completely different profession paths, aspirations, and outlooks. It is a way more practical and complete illustration than we’re used to, and it resonates.

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“There was just a little bit of just about each scene I may relate to, and I received misplaced within the film,” says Mario “The Butcher” Montes, one other “Nothing Just like the Holidays” superfan. He clocks greater than 30 occasions watching the movie, together with within the theater when it first got here out. What retains him coming again? The “little gems” just like the scene the place the siblings escape their mother and father within the attic and pull out a pint of tequila or Molina’s tighty whities. “That is our father,” he says. “He regarded like my pop strolling round the home like he was.”

Montes, who retired from the grocery enterprise and is now pursuing his dream as a comic, is Mexican, not Puerto Rican. So the dishes the Rodriguez household put together and collect round aren’t the identical dishes Montes and his household normally have across the holidays. However that does not cease him from relating: “I felt I may scent it . . . It jogged my memory of one in every of my aunts on my mother’s facet, consuming at her home.” His connection to the movie is deeper than naming the proper dish.

“One among my favourite elements was after they have been making an attempt to chop the tree and the tree is just not going anyplace. I really feel it symbolizes the place Latinos are in America, the place so many individuals attempt to lower us out,” he shares. “However we’re petrified like that tree. We’re not going anyplace. We have embedded, rooted on this nation, and other people must recover from it.” Along with claiming Latinxs’ place on this nation, that scene, together with the movie as a complete, additionally addresses Latinx concepts of masculinity, with the boys taking turns making an attempt to topple the tree in a present of manly prowess (or not). The brothers signify two ends of the masculine very best. Leguizamo’s Mauricio is a high-earning New York legal professional, whereas Rodriguez’s Jesse is a soldier who simply received again from Iraq. Their father owns the native bodega, and whereas he is a pillar of the neighborhood, he hasn’t been so nice to his spouse, along with his historical past of infidelity.

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What’s attention-grabbing is that regardless that the household’s father is the one who’s chargeable for all people, he additionally causes the movie’s central battle by protecting a secret. “The accuracy of that character — numerous our males have a lot machismo, they only hold issues to themselves,” Rivera says. “You do not even know that they are struggling in silence, and numerous our Latinos must know, particularly our males, it is OK to share your ache. It does not make you much less of a person. It is OK to ask for assist.”

That lesson is a part of the illustration that makes “Nothing Just like the Holidays” so distinctive. Right here, the boys aren’t victims or villains however somewhat flawed folks making an attempt to be higher. And the movie extends that grace to all of its characters, utilizing the specificity of its Boricua household to get us there. Take how the movie handles the Rodriguez household’s relationships with Catholicism. They’re a mixture of believers and nonbelievers, churchgoers and non-churchgoers — bucking the stereotype that each one Latinxs are religious Catholics. So when Mauricio is making an attempt to persuade his mom to not divorce his father, he invitations their priest over for dinner. His thought is that he can use her devotion to vary her thoughts. However she is just not so simply manipulated and stands her floor, yelling again at her household earlier than a number of of them inform the priest to close up. That is the advanced, multilayered, and constantly evolving relationship to the church of so many Latinxs, and it is a nuance not often portrayed on movie.

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“Nothing Just like the Holidays” additionally manages to thoughtfully current interracial and interfaith {couples}, one other frequent Latinx actuality not often finished effectively in movie. Each Rivera and Montes talked about the evolution of the connection between Messing’s Sarah and Peña’s Anna as notably poignant for them. Sarah, the white Jewish outsider who seems to be failing her responsibility to supply grandkids, wins over her Boricua suegra. She does it partly by feminine solidarity but additionally by utilizing the emotional intelligence her husband cannot deploy to his mother and father.

With all of those components, “Nothing Just like the Holidays” captures truths of Latinx tradition in a approach we’re not used to seeing on display — with loving data and common themes. That is deeply necessary to Rivera, who desires extra of the sort of illustration. “It’s so necessary for our existence, for our children to grasp that they don’t seem to be a facet character,” he says. Montes provides, “It actually received me out of being just a little burnt out from work or no matter . . . [leaving the theater,] I simply felt so good. I felt like a greater individual.” That is a vacation custom value celebrating.

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