In 1966 southern California, Richard Montañez grows up as a hardworking child with a strict father and supportive grandfather. He faces challenges in his youth and later becomes involved in a life of crime. However, when his wife Judy becomes pregnant, they decide to turn their lives around. Richard struggles to find work and eventually secures a job at Frito-Lay with the help of his friend Tony Romero. He learns about the factory and its machinery from engineer Clarence C. Baker. As the company faces difficulties, Richard gets inspired to “think like a CEO” and comes up with an idea to save Frito-Lay by targeting the Latino market. Despite initial setbacks, he eventually convinces Frito-Lay CEO Roger Enrico to try his flavored Cheetos. The idea is a success, and Richard’s creation, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, goes into production. He works hard to promote the new flavor and achieves great success, leading to a bigger order from Enrico. Although Richard remains a janitor, he receives support and recognition from his colleagues and is promoted to head of international marketing. The story ends with Richard retiring from the company after 45 years, still happily married to Judy.
Flamin Hot tells the story of Richard Montañez, the janitor to manager success story and supposed creator of Flamin Hot Cheetos. Eva Longoria, the director, twists it into two stories that slightly deconstruct the American Dream Success Story: you get the standard Horacio Algiers version full of triumph, tragedy and up from your boot strap moments— and you get the Cholo-Mexican-American version all about rising above gangs, prejudice and his own doubts. Put together they become the new American Dream Success story, the all inclusive one promised on the base plaque of the Statue of Liberty.
It was wise for Longoria to break up Montañez memoir into two parallel myths allowing her to show the truth and delusions in the American dream, to portray it as a comedy of sorts about not only one man’s rise but also the power of La Familia to facilitate that rise. It blunts the prejudice in favor of an inclusivity that says that success is achieved through everyone working together. Conservatives will swallows the spoonful of DEI without even noticing it.
It helps to have two leads that can act this believably with all the brio that they can. Jesse Garcia and Annie Gonzalez’s possess the necessary poignant chemistry that can get them through good and bad times and the magical realist dips the story must take.
Even though Flamin Hot Cheetos may not be as all natural as its origin story implies, in this case, the eventual adding of artificial preservatives guarantees a long shelf life in the Hulu slate of originals. Flamin Hot gets a 3.5 out of 5 or a B+.
- Lewis Colick
- Linda Yvette Chávez
Based onA Boy, a Burrito and a Cookie: From Janitor to Executive by Richard Montañez and the life stories of Richard and Judy Montañez
- Liza D. Espinas
- Kayla Emter
- March 11, 2023(SXSW)
- June 9, 2023(United States)