Movie Review: Cesar Chavez (2014)

Published On April 14, 2014 » 2112 Views» By admin »

cesar_chavez_xlgA dry Academic History Lesson


I love it when a movie makes me feel smart. That’s why I like making my way over to limited releases on occasion, especially when nationwide releases disappoint me.

Directed by Diego Luna, Chávez chronicles the birth of a modern American movement led by famed civil rights leader and labor organizer, Cesar Chavez (Michael Pena). Torn between his duties as a husband and father and his commitment to bringing dignity and justice to others,
Chavez was almost like a farm workers Ghandi. He embraces non violence, while fighting for the rights of farm workers, and balancing his personal life.

Michael Peña was an excellent choice for Chavez. He had a quiet dignity which highlights Chavez’ own nonviolent beliefs. He takes a centered approach to the role that really works with the character.

It was also good to see America Ferrera as César Chávez’s wife, Helen. She played the supporting role well, though a bit flatly. That might have been due to the development of the role. The movie was really focused on the title character.


The movie starts off with a radio interview with Chavez and the entire purpose of Chavez fight is revealed as Chavez describes how his father lost his farm to big industry;

“That’s when we stopped being farmers and started being farm workers.”

After a promising opening, the movie plods on a bit. The story of Chávez is inspiring. But watching a guy fast and go on hunger strikes isn’t nearly as interesting as it sounds, mostly due to subpar story telling.

The run time is far too long. While it is a biographic movie, it doesn’t have the strength to hold a viewers attention for that long. From my understanding, Chávez was an intense, passionate man. Unfortunately, the movie about his life feels dry and academic. We don’t really get to know Chávez. We just get to know what he did.

While there is an attempt to humanize Chávez by showing his conflict with his family over his activism, the subplot doesn’t really feel fleshed out and there is no really satisfying resolution.



The movie is a bit too dry and unemotional to intrigue most viewers. It really feels more like a documentary than a fully fleshed out film. This is unfortunate, as the material was there. It just wasn’t used.

Also, the racist secondary characters were one dimensional and flat. I think the movie might have done a better job by underlining the motivations of the people Chavez came in conflict with. While it wouldn’t have made them sympathetic, it would have giving the conflict more credibility.

If you are in need of a good history lesson for your civics class, this movie is slightly less dry than reading a textbook. Luckily, the title character brings some life to the role, but everything else falls a bit flat. The story plods on, the conflicts feel forced, and the secondary characters are underdeveloped at best and stereotypical at worst. While the story of Cesar Chavez is an interesting and inspiring story, this film failed to capture his particular magic. Watch the official trailer below.

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