When Netflix made a movie about the life of Selena Quintanilla, the Grammy award-winning Mexican-American singer who died over 25 years ago, they broke it up into a series.
And stretched it out.
At the time of this writing, Netflix has released only nine episodes of Selena: The Series, each about 40 minutes long. The series showcases how the family worked together, without much complaint, performing their way amidst financial devastation and hole-in-the-wall venues. The goal of the filmmakers was to capitalize on the brilliant singing talents of the youngest daughter, Selena, who was only nine when she first performed.
Through sheer will and creative maneuvering, the family struggled to the top of the music charts.
Serena, played as an adult by Christian Serratos, was the family’s talent front and center, bolstered by the songwriting skills of her brother AB (enacted by Gabriel Chavarria.) Their musical father Abraham Quintanilla II (Ricardo Chavira) is portrayed as the controlling force behind the success of this iconic singer.
Describing their dad as driven…is akin to calling the Pope semi-religious…
Selena found no early success singing in English, and had to learn Spanish in order to capture the “Queen of Tejana Music” moniker. It is curious that this second-generation American family born in Texas had deep Mexican roots yet no one spoke Spanish.
Her desire to record in English remains an unfulfilled dream she rekindles at the end of Series 1. Future episodes of Selena becoming a crossover artist have been filmed but not yet released by Netflix.
Actors Madison Taylor Baez as the child Serena has a knock-your-socks-off voice with a most endearing face. Christian Serratos portrays the luminous grown-up star. She lip-syncs Serena’s stage performances, to the delight of fans who appreciate the dubbed yet authentic voice.
Not to be overlooked is Noemi Gonzalez, who doesn’t sing but delivers an earthy and earnest performance as Serena’s sister. With the exception of Twilight’s Serratos, supporting characters are all believably and solidly portrayed by lesser-known Latinx actors. Kudos on the acting and directing.
“Many episodes can be hard to believe, as teenagers actually listen to their all-wise dad and do as they are told.”
Serena Series 1 has a multitude of the songs that made Serena famous. It also has filler, undoubtedly to make this a two-series program. Serena and her sister do a lot of fabric shopping, creating outfits with an abundance of rhinestones and glitter. Episodes flash back and forward, with the viewer expected to fill in the blanks of the storyline.
Many episodes can be hard to believe, as teenagers actually listen to their all-wise dad — and do as they are told! No one seems even slightly jealous of the family’s entire focus on Selena. Is this really how it was?
The Quintanilla family reportedly worked with Netflix and the producers to protect Serena’s legacy. It’s their story; they decide how to tell it.
If you can’t get enough Selena with these first nine episodes, check out the 1997 biopic Selena starring Jennifer Lopez. Netflix has not yet announced a release date of the continuing episodes in this series, although confirming they have been filmed.
Netflix touts Selena: The Series as their #1 in current popularity, but it’s not clear how the votes are collected. Regardless, it’s an enjoyable recounting of one family’s sacrifices made for fame, with bright sparkles and bedazzling rhinestones aplenty.
Nice change of pace. Worth watching.
“Selena: The Series” Part 1
- Streaming on: Netflix. Available also on iPhone, and Android
- Availability: Now for some episodes. More to be released.
- Directed by: Hiromi Kamata and Katina Medina Mora
- Created/Produced by: Moises Zamora
- Christian Serratos
- Madison Taylor Baez
- Ricardo Chavira
- Seidy Lopez
- Gabriel Chavarria
- Noemi Gonzalez
- Jesse Posey
Run Time: Each of 9 episodes is approximately 40 minutes
- Overall: 3 of 5 stars
- Performance: 4 of 5
- Script: 3 of 5
- TOTAL = 10/15