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We Know the Tragic End, But 'Selena: The Movie' Celebrates the Singer and Her Rise to Stardom
December 4, 2020  | By David Hinckley
 


The ping-pong match continues with the legacy of Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, better known simply as Selena, the much-loved Tejano singer who was murdered in 1995 at the age of 23.

Selena's family, which feels that legacy has been unfairly maligned in some quarters, authorized and provided much of the material for Selena: The Series, which becomes available Friday on Netflix.

Christian Serratos (top), best known in recent years as Rosita on The Walking Dead, plays Selena as charming, talented, tough, and yet, in some ways, insecure and vulnerable.

Moisés Zamora's script has her firmly and lovingly given a final push to the top by her ambitious father Abraham (Ricardo Chavira). Once she gets there, she relies on her older sister, Suzette (Noemí González), and her older brother, A.B. (Gabriel Chavarria), who both play in her band and always have her back.

It's impossible to avoid the fact that whenever anyone mentions the name Selena, the first thought that comes to mind is her heartbreakingly tragic death: She was shot by Yolanda Saldívar, the president of her fan club and a personal friend.

While Selena: The Series will get to that moment, it pointedly refocuses attention on two much more uplifting aspects of Selena's story: her music and the way her family battled out of poverty to make the ultra-long shot dream of stardom a reality.

The hard times were, well, hard. After Abraham Quintanilla and his wife Marcella (Seidy López) lose their family restaurant, they must move their five-member clan into a single room at the home of Uncle Hector (David Barrera).

They're living small, but Abraham has a dream. Not unlike Joe Jackson a few decades earlier in Gary, Ind., Abraham was a musician who envisioned his kids forming a family band and turning it into a family living.

The early years range from awkward to embarrassing. With young Selena (charmingly played by Madison Taylor Baez) as the vocalist, they flop at lounges, county fairs, and senior citizen centers.

Selena sounds fine singing old hits like "Why Do Fools Fall In Love" and Crystal Gayle tunes, but it's not until Abraham sees a Tejano band win a crowd with lively dance music that the light bulb goes on, and he sees the future instead of the past.

Selena and the band shift to a hybrid of Tejano dance music and rich Mexican-rooted ballads. They also wisely begin featuring Selena, with the charming smile and the winning voice.

It probably should be noted that viewers have seen a shorter version of this story before in Selena, the 1997 movie that vaulted Jennifer Lopez to stardom.

Like Selena: The SeriesSelena, the movie, was approved and guided by the Quintanilla family.

The movie was seen at the time as an answer of sorts to Selena's Secret: The Revealing Story Behind Her Tragic Death, a book by journalist Maria Celeste Arrarás that painted a darker picture of the Quintanilla family, particularly Abraham.

Arrarás, who covered Saldívar's trial and interviewed dozens of people involved with Selena's life and the murder case, reported some details the Quintanilla family did not dispute, like the crumbling relationship between Saldívar and Selena.

Arrarás found that Selena was easing Saldívar out of her operation because she believed Saldívar was skimming money and mistreating some of her fans.

The Quintanillas don't disagree. They do feel Arrarás, who interviewed Saldívar in prison, gave too much ink to Saldívar's explanations. The family's greater concern was Arrarás's portrayal of Abraham as overbearing, to the extent that Selena was maneuvering to get out from under his control.

Arrarás also reported that Selena's personal life at the time of her death was not as exemplary as the family had suggested. Arrarás says she was having an affair, though she had been married for only a short time to musician Chris Perez.

Arrarás's book eventually became the basis for the 2018 TV series El Secreto De Selena. The Quintanilla family condemned El Secreto and assured fans that Selena: The Series would once again counter Arrarás.

Toward that end, the story here is told simply and directly. You don't have to be a Selena fan to follow along because it's the quintessential American bootstraps success story. Through talent, perseverance, and hard work, Selena beats those long odds.

It's never clear sailing, but we're rooting for her from the beginning, and the story is inspiring enough that Selena: The Series makes us appreciate the good times rather than simply dreading the sad end.

 
 
 
 
 
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