"I Like It Like That," written and directed by Darnell Martin, tells the story of Lisette (Lauren Velez), a young Latina living in the Bronx. When her husband, Chino (Jon Seda) gets into serious trouble, Lauren must support their family. Her attempts to find self-respect and economic stability bring her into conflict with Chino, with her scheming, materialistic mother-in-law (Rita Moreno), and with a white record company executive (Griffin Dunne). Along the way, she gets advice and moral support from Alexis (Jesse Borrego), her sibling, who is a male-to-female transsexual.
"I Like It" is a film that is full of life. Through his characters, director Martin offers thoughtful insights on ethnicity, gender identity, family ties, economic pressures, and other issues. The Santeria religion is an interesting backdrop to some of the plot. And the film as a whole is well complemented by a diverse musical score: I heard such elements as R&B, rap, and salsa.
The film is enhanced by excellent performances by the mostly Latino cast. It is especially fun to see Latina icon Rita Moreno playing the role of the arrogant mother-in-law (who boasts of her family's "pure Castillian blood") with gusto. Tomas Melly is impressive as Lisette's young son, who faces the temptations of the street. But perhaps the most memorable performance is delivered by Jesse Borrego as the transgendered Alexis; he is alternatingly bitchy, nurturing, witty, and heartbreaking, but always with a core of dignity. I give this film an enthusiastic recommendation.