Eric D. Snider

Piñero

Movies about artists almost always do them a disservice by making them look crazy and/or pretentious, which in truth only about 75 percent of them are. "Piñero" does not escape that trap, but it does feature a bravura performance by Benjamin Bratt as the title character, the tortured Puerto Rican-born playwright/poet/actor Miguel Piñero.

Piñero died of cirrhosis in 1988, and the film jumps back and forth between that period of time and the early '70s, when he was fresh out of jail and beginning to find fame as a writer. (His most famous work, in case you haven't heard of him, was the 1974 play "Short Eyes.")

The film itself, written and directed by Leon Ichaso, is like the breezy jazz music that plays on its soundtrack. It bounces around from one time to another, switches from black-and-white to color, from video to film, all without warning and yet all without violently upsetting the viewer. We grow accustomed to the seeming randomness of the storytelling and learn to enjoy its rhythms.

That said, I wish the film had more to say. Another curse of the artist biopic is in assuming the viewer already worships the subject as much as the filmmaker does. Who was Piñero, and more to the point, why should we care? Bratt brings him to life, but we come away appreciating his genius no more than we did before.

Grade: C+

Rated R, a lot of harsh profanity, some nudity, some strong sexuality, some violence

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